Australian PM drops climate change policy

Facing a serious threat to his leadership of the Liberal Party in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has scrapped his plans to set emissions targets in his signature energy policy. 

The emissions targets have generated large-scale opposition in his party and rather than test his strength in a parliamentary vote, Turnbull has dropped the policy altogether.


Down in the polls and desperate to hold on to his position, Malcolm Turnbull knows a leadership challenge could be near.

After all, it's only three years since he launched his own "spill" to oust former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Once a leader looks vulnerable, the political rumour-mill goes into overdrive and trusted Cabinet colleagues can start to look like rivals.

Choosing to back down on the emissions legislation shows that Mr Turnbull wants to avoid testing his support in a parliamentary vote.

Even if the current threat retreats, his authority has been damaged and his opponents have gained momentum.

Mr Turnbull said he would not proceed with the emissions target – part of his National Energy Guarantee (NEG) – because it had no prospect of passing through the House of Representatives, where he has only a slim majority.

He said the NEG would still require electricity retailers to cap their prices and provide more "reliable" streams of power.

"Cheaper power has always been our number one priority when it comes to energy policy," Mr Turnbull said.

This doesn't mean that Australia will have no emissions standards at all.  The Australians are already on track to meet their obligations under the Paris Climate agreement.  So this move has more to do with politics than climate change or energy.

I think this is more evidence of dissatisfaction with the political class, which appears to know no boundaries, nor is it limited to western Europe and the U.S.  Historians talk about the "undercurrents" of history that drive people and events in directions they may not be fully aware of.  The great fomenting of ideas and attitudes of ordinary people will likely be with us for a while as populism pushes its way into the consciousness of nations.

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