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The Federal Coalition's Climate Failure

The Federal Coalition is currently enjoying its third term in government. And yet, like Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull before him, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seriously failing Australia on climate solutions.

The Federal Coalition has been under a steadily rising pressure from climate change advocacy groups since its ascension in 2013.

To date, the Federal Coalition still has not provided a policy agenda to mitigate catastrophic climate change by reducing emissions. Data released earlier this year reveals that national emissions are increasing rather than decreasing.

It is not simply a matter of ignorance or inaction on the part of the Federal Coalition but wilful environmental vandalism.

Many commentators have linked the Coalition's destructive climate policies to the climate effects that are increasingly experienced in Australia, for example coastal erosion and severe weather events like the recent bushfires, as well as abroad such as rising sea levels affecting the Pacific Islands.

Act on Climate has previously showcased some of the Coalition's climate failure highlights between 2013-18.

As we near the end of 2019, let's take a look at some of the 'highlights' of their climate vandalism and neglect over the last two years...

Since 2018 the Federal Coalition:

  • Refused to commit to ruling out new coal mines and even supported Pauline Hansen's motion calling for new mines.

  • Rejected a policy commitment to keep national emissions below 1.5C, despite being a signatory to this target as part of the Paris Climate Agreement.

  • Expressed a total lack of understanding and empathy for the plight of international climate victims (again). The Pacific Islands are facing rapid sea level rises, but instead of taking our responsibilities seriously at the Pacific Islands Forum, our Ministers disrespected and insulted our neighbours. Deputy PM Michael McCormack insinuated that it didn't matter that Pacific Islanders would lose their homes - because they could just come here to do Australia's fruit-picking!

  • Drafted an elaborate but toothless 'National Energy Guarantee', which in the end was abandoned altogether. The policy's sole positive was that it would have enshrined a national Emissions Reduction Target, however it was so low that it was only set to match - if not undershoot - the country's existing emissions trajectory. 

  • Admitted they were planning to abandon the national Renewable Energy Target, which will wind up next year. With the abandonment of the NEG, which would have enshrined new renewable targets, there is a policy vacuum for ensuring Australia's transition to cleaner power. 

  • Responded to the dire report by the IPCC in October 2018 with statements to the effect that there are no plans to phase out coal - nor do Senior Ministers see any reason to, despite the consensus that it causes carbon emissions.

  • Refused to increase national Emissions Reduction Targets at Conference of Parties 25 in Madrid.

  • Was named the only country in the world to use its climate funding to upgrade coal power plants.

  • Saw Australia ranked as one of the heaviest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Including both the fossil fuels Australia exports and burns itself, we are the world's 14th biggest emitter, despite comprising only 0.3 percent of the global population. 

  • Avoided the UN's emergency Climate Action Summit despite Prime Minister Morrison being in the United States at the time.
  • Was the only government planning to use carryover climate credits from the Kyoto Agreement in order to fulfil its Paris Agreement emissions reduction target. 

  • Used the NSW bushfires for vapid political gain, creating blatantly false news by accusing the Greens of hindering back-burning in the state. Barnaby Joyce, former Deputy PM, even lanced a weird and inappropriate intended insult against those deceased in the fires, saying they were 'probably Greens voters'. 

  • Continued its climate denialism. The PM and his Ministers refused to acknowledge any link between the severe bushfires in NSW and climate change. Our minister responsible for Natural Disasters, David Littleproud, stated earlier this year: "I don't know if climate change is manmade," despite calls from former emergency services leaders that the seasons are less predictable as an obvious result of climate change and Australia's emergency services unprepared. 

  • Made plans to erode basic civil liberties, threatening to ban certain forms of environmental activism. 

  • Allowed Prime Minister to holiday in Hawaii amidst an unprecedented bushfire crisis.

(You can check out a detailed timeline of the Coalition's record on climate change in this article from Situation Theatre.)


The Morrison government's failure to act on climate means we need to see greater leadership from state and territory governments.

The Victorian Labor government can show leadership by setting Emissions Reduction Targets to meet the global goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C. By adopting science-based targets, Premier Daniel Andrews can overshadow PM Scott Morrison's meagre offering and get Australia back on track.

Recently, Vic Labor's rank and file passed a motion to back science-based emissions reduction and renewable energy targets. Premier Daniel Andrews himself came out in response to the NSW fires to say that the link between severe bushfires and climate change is "indisputable". 

The Andrews government must set Emissions Reduction Targets for 2025 and '30 early next year. These stepping-stone targets will drive the cuts needed to meet the legislated goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. (Though we'll need to eliminate emissions well before then to avoid dangerous climate impacts). 

Victoria needs to do heavy lifting sooner rather than later to reduce catastrophic climate change. The IPCC's recent report has warned that we only have 10 years within which to limit warming to 1.5°C. In light of the federal policy vacuum, it's up to state governments to put their shoulder to the wheel their to drive emissions cuts.


This Christmas at Act on Climate, we thought why not take a leaf from Scomo's book? 

A lump of coal is the perfect Christmas gift for the naughty list of Climate Blockers and environmental vandals.

You can buy the Climate Blockers a lump of coal here through the Friends of the Earth shop, on behalf of yourself or as an Xmas gift for a loved one.

We will be hand-delivering the coal to a key climate blocker in a little while... so stay tuned for updates!


  • Send a message for climate action that cannot be ignored, join us at Jells Park on Sunday 16 February to create a human sign. 
  • Get involved by attending a weekly Act on Climate meeting (resuming on 13 January 2020).

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