He would rather forego his parliamentary pension than admit it, but
our prime minister is unobtrusively softening his hardline stance on climate change.
Not to the point of bipartisan agreement in the national interests –
that would be too big an ask. But there are signs that the decade-long
pitched battle may de-escalate to a heavily armed truce.
The delay could well be disastrous – Australia has a lot of catching up
to do, and the rest of the world has become very tired of waiting for
But better late than never, as they say. Scott Morrison might come
late to the party, but if he brings a serious contribution to the punch
bowl, he may be allowed to wassail along with the others.
The trigger, of course, is Joe Biden. The incoming president has made
it clear that America will not only re-join the Paris agreement, but
intends to lead it. And this will be his first priority in office. Next
February, Morrison’s isolation will become even more stark.
Which is why he is backing off. Last week there was a significant
concession: Australia’s insistence that using left over carbon credits
to fund our 2030 emission targets was a legitimate ploy when all the
other players deemed it unacceptable was quietly sidelined – not yet
abandoned, but it is clearly on the way out.
Morrison continues to blather about meeting and beating our
commitments in a canter, and how he proposes to square that circle
is yet to be revealed. But he is becoming resigned to the fact that he
will not be allowed to cheat: he must be seen as part of the solution,
not part of the problem.
He is still resisting the most important goal, zero emissions by 2050.
But in a sense it hardly matters because it is effectively locked in: all
the premiers and chief ministers, the business community, the
agriculture sector, even many of the miners have signed up, and the
rest of the world has moved on. Whether Morrison likes it or not, he
will be dragged along in the backwash.
There will always be recalcitrants – the silliest, our so-called Energy
Minister Angus Taylor stubbornly continues to puff gas from every
orifice in the fond belief that this is the answer long after the question
has been abandoned. Ticking off the Narrabri gas fields is a bad idea
on every level – environmental, economic and political. It will play
briefly to the coalition rump, but the majority within the government,
even the Nationals, cannot maintain their rage for much longer.
The transition will not be easy but it must be negotiated and finally
Morrison is sidling towards the inevitable flip and if he has any
hesitation, there is an even more impeccable source to fall back on.
Last week Rupert Murdoch went out of his way to insist that not
everyone in his empire was a climate denialist. Well, there may be a
couple who aren’t, although we haven’t heard much from them in the
last few years. But now it has become imperative for the mogul to
start cosying up to the new regime in Washington.
His interests in his seldom-visited dominions in the Antipodes are
less urgent, but the Dark Lord has spoken, and his words will he
heard across the ocean. And Morrison, as always, will be listening.