Is climate change a left wing issue?

Reform The Ross Garnaut-commissioned CSIRO’s report Australians’ views of climate change last year polled 3096 Australians and found that the biggest single predictor of whether Australians believe that global warming is caused by humans is their voting intentions. The CSIRO found that 82 per cent of Greens voters and 63 per cent of Labor voters believed climate change is occurring largely due to human activity, while 59 per cent of Liberal/National voters think it is a normal fluctuation in the Earth’s climate. Voting intention would seem to be a strange thing to correlate with an issue that is essentially scientific.

Does that make climate change a left wing issue? Not if we go back a bit into history. Margaret Thatcher was one of the first world leaders to take the threat of climate change seriously. In 1990 she committed to reversing the rising trend of greenhouse gas emissions and bring emissions back to 1990 levels by 2005. Back in Australia in 1990 Andrew Peacock faced off against Bob Hawke in a general election. The Coalition under Peacock committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2000 if they won office. Peacock lost the election but the commitment was kept under the new Coalition Leader John Hewson who took it to the 1993 election.

Early commitments to reducing emissions came from the conservative side of politics. John Howard promised to introduce an ETS to cut emissions. Brendan Nelson, who followed Howard as Liberal leader also thought that an ETS was the best way to deliver emissions cuts. Next was Malcolm Turnbull, who also thought that an ETS was the best way to go. Even Tony Abbott has previously said the best way to cut emissions is an ETS, as well as supporting a carbon tax.

While the focus in the coming days will be on the government’s ‘Clean Energy Future’ package, attention will inevitably turn to the Coalition’s alternative ‘Direct Action Plan’. Keep an eye out for The Australia Institute’s analysis by visiting our website.

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