State Liberals shaping as key to national climate policy action

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Tasmanian-based journalist Rob Inglis.

Who is that masked climate crusader? Photo: Shutterstock

Who is that masked climate crusader? Photo: Shutterstock

A revolution appears to be occurring at a state level within the Liberal Party.

While it may not be as overt a display of rebellion as that of the grassroots School Strike for Climate movement, it's a form of rebellion all the same.

Recently, an academic study by some of the world's top climate change biologists found that activism was driving public interest in climate science.

And it might be argued that this same activism, spearheaded by Swedish wunderkind Greta Thunberg, is also influencing Australian lawmakers, including those on the right.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein made a statement when he named himself the state's first ever Liberal Climate Change Minister two weeks ago.

Tasmania will be energy self-sufficient by 2022 and, with bold policy initiatives, can set an example for the rest of Australia due to the fact that about 93 per cent of our power is already generated from renewable sources like hydro dams and variable sources like wind and solar power.

Tasmania's new Premier Peter Gutwein has appointed himself the state's first Liberal Climate Change Minister. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Tasmania's new Premier Peter Gutwein has appointed himself the state's first Liberal Climate Change Minister. Picture: Phillip Biggs

"We have to accept we now have a more volatile climate ... obviously we have challenges that we need to take on," Mr Gutwein said at a press conference where he unveiled his new Cabinet on January 24.

He's the latest in a growing list of senior state Liberal MPs from a number of jurisdictions to take a leadership role in moving to address climate change.

We've seen New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean criticise his federal Liberal counterparts for not leading from the front when it comes to lowering emissions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit back at Mr Kean, saying "most of the federal Cabinet wouldn't even know who Matt Kean was". He won't be able to say that about Mr Gutwein - at least, not with a straight face.

Victorian Liberal leader Michael O'Brien has recently called for the Coalition to implement "sensible" emissions targets.

It came after he launched an ambitious policy to move Victoria towards sending zero waste to landfill.

Federally, the Liberal Party and its National Party colleagues have been paralysed by the climate question, with inertia being their default position, despite attempts from moderates to change the status quo (hi, Malcolm Turnbull).

Australia's 'black summer' has served to highlight our country's sub-par contribution to the global effort to tackle climate change.

In order to meet an international commitment made at the Paris climate conference in 2015 - to cut 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 - Australia (which is the second-biggest exporter of coal in the world) will have to utilise carryover credits from its Kyoto Protocol commitments.

It's a creative accounting approach that's been globally condemned as one that could set an unfortunate precedent.

And now, state Liberal MPs from across the nation, counting a Premier among their ranks, are sending a message to the PM: If you won't do something, then maybe we'll do it for you.

Rob Inglis,

journalist, The Examiner

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