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Australian Prime Minister Pledges ‘New Era’ of Climate Action Under Labor

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised a “new era” of climate action and energy innovation under his center-left Labor government, despite criticism from activists and Greens Party lawmakers who say that his planned cuts to emissions don’t go far enough.

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(Bloomberg) — Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised a “new era” of climate action and energy innovation under his center-left Labor government, despite criticism from activists and Greens Party lawmakers who say that his planned cuts to emissions don’t go far enough.

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Speaking to the Sydney Energy Forum on Tuesday, Albanese said Australia’s current energy infrastructure and policies are inadequate to handle the global fuel crisis which has been sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Albanese reiterated his promise to introduce new climate legislation, including a target of 43% cuts by 2030 and net zero by 2050, when Australia’s Parliament sits for the first time under his leadership this month.

“This is a new day. It is a new era. We need to act — and we will act,” he said.

Albanese took power at an election in May where Australia’s lack of action on climate change was a major issue. While Labor won government with a majority in the lower house of Parliament, Albanese will be held to account by a wave of new lawmakers who were elected after campaigning for tougher action on climate change.

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The Australian Greens Party and pro-climate action independent David Pocock hold the balance of power in the Australian Senate, leaving the new government highly dependent on them to pass legislation.

The Greens and Pocock have called for emission cuts of at least 60% by 2030. Greens leader Adam Bandt has also called for an moratorium on any new coal or gas mines in Australia.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen has described the government’s 43% emissions target as a floor rather than a “ceiling” for Labor’s climate ambitions. However, Albanese has been clear he will not legislate a higher target in his first term of government.

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Albanese’s target brings Australia into line with nations including Canada, South Korea and Japan, though the plan remains less ambitious than action pledged by the US, the European Union and the UK.

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Bowen and US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm were scheduled Tuesday to discuss collaboration on climate technology on the sidelines of the two-day forum. Ministers handling energy policy from the Quad nations — which also include India and Japan — are meeting for talks in Sydney alongside executives from companies including Siemens Corp., Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. and Mitsui & Co.

Australia has already seen the impact of climate change-fueled natural disasters, including severe flooding in the state of New South Wales over the past month. In his speech on Tuesday, Albanese said the extent of the flooding in Sydney has previously been described as a “once-in-a-thousand year event.”

“Guess what? It’s now an annual event,” he said.

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Albanese said Australia can become a renewable energy “superpower,” describing the coming years as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity. “Our government’s policies are designed to seize that opportunity with the determination and resolve it demands,” the prime minister said.

Climate change is also a major issue among Australia’s neighboring Pacific nations, who have long criticized Australia for not living up to its climate action obligations. Canberra is currently working to burnish its credentials in the Pacific among a growing battle for influence with Beijing in the region.

Albanese is expected to head to the Pacific Islands Forum on Wednesday to meet with regional leaders. “Australia will once again be a trusted global partner on climate action. I am ambitious about what we can achieve together,” he said.

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