There is absolutely no doubt climate change will be front of mind for many Australians voting today.
Among the tens of thousands of Australians who took part in the ABC's Vote Compass tool/survey, climate change was by far the most common concern.
In fact, 30 per cent said climate change was their number-one issue, compared to just 1 per cent who named the COVID-19 pandemic as top of mind.
Climate change is intrinsically entwined with so many aspects of our lives. It affects our economy, national security, foreign diplomacy, food supply, our lifestyles, our health and our household bills.
The Black Summer bushfires demolished homes and communities, and, more recently, Australia's worst flooding disaster in living memory swept away people's homes and possessions. Sadly, many people lost their lives. Others lost their livelihoods.
Extreme weather disasters are costing Australia dearly, but there's a further, hidden toll when it comes to burning fossil fuels. It's astounding to consider that - in Australia - air pollution from burning fossil fuels is estimated to kill 5700 people every year. That's more than five times the road toll.
The truth is, our country has been governed for the past three terms by a federal government that has done next to nothing to address the biggest threat of our time and has, in fact, set us back immeasurably. The consequences of inaction have well and truly arrived at our doorstep.
The Climate Council has assessed in detail the climate policy and actions of the federal government over the past eight years it has been in power. Our conclusion? The Morrison government deserves an abject F for fail.
This government made cuts to climate science, actively worked to block climate action on the global stage and exacerbated the problem by expanding fossil-fuel production.
In fact, if this government had done absolutely nothing at all, Australia would have been better off. We're now in a situation where if all countries were to follow our approach, the world would be on an even more perilous path towards catastrophic global heating. Fortunately, most countries are doing far better.
Many Australians are aware of this poor record. We asked 1299 Australians via a Roy Morgan poll to rank the Morrison government on climate action and responding to extreme disasters. Collectively, they gave it a three out of 10. Among young Australians, this dropped to one out of 10.
No group, regardless of their age or voting preference or location, gave the government a pass mark of five or more.
Overwhelmingly, voters are frustrated and dissatisfied with how Australia is responding to the climate challenge. This may well translate to swings at the ballot box this month.
Speaking of policy, let's take a look at what the major parties have on offer.
The Morrison government has settled on doing too little, way too late. It may have announced a "net zero by 2050" target, but it does not have a credible plan to meet it. It has also stubbornly refused to strengthen Australia's woefully inadequate target for 2030, breaking a commitment Australia made to the rest of the world at United Nations climate talks.
As one of the sunniest and windiest countries on Earth, we are at risk of missing out on the enormous economic opportunities that rapidly growing renewable energy and associated industries would create. While the world is racing ahead, the federal government has been holding the sunny country back.
The Labor Party's plan does set Australia on a path to achieve net zero by 2050. The modelling and policies that sit behind it are credible, with a focus on a rapid transition of our electricity system to renewable energy, which would create a raft of new jobs and unlock major new economic opportunities for the country.
However, Labor will still need to substantially strengthen its target for 2030 if we are to protect Australians and realise the full potential for Australia of the global renewable energy revolution.
Australia can be a clean energy superpower - but we need the Federal Parliament to support Australians and Australian companies in order to make it happen.
Meanwhile, the states and territories are filling the political vacuum of climate action by investing in clean and renewable energy and bolstering net zero pledges to focus on climate action this decade.
Regardless of which party is in power by the end of May, the climate task ahead of them is hugely important.
This is the make-or-break decade for climate action, and we need to see a sharp increase in meaningful, strong action to rein in our pollution, grow renewable power and protect Australians from the consequences of a rapidly changing climate.
The science is really clear on this: to avoid catastrophic climate change, Australia must do its part by cutting emissions by 75 per cent by 2030, and reach net zero by 2035. This will allow us to fully capitalise on the global economic transformation to clean energy that's well underway.
Voters know that climate change is an existential threat. Every one of us will be affected in some way. What might not be clear to everyone is the opportunity that acting on climate change presents to improve our lives, our communities and our country.
That's why, as we're all being barraged by scare campaigns about the cost of living and will they/won't they argy-bargy about net zero by 2050, we can't lose sight of the costs we are already paying from the past decade of climate failures, or the economic benefits we stand to gain by acting now.
The government elected will inherit a rapidly closing window of opportunity to turn the tide. Our job as the voting public is to hold their feet to the fire.
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