As Scott Morrison’s negotiations with citizens on climate policy reach a crisis point, the latest study by the Guardian Essential suggests that a majority of Australians want the coalition to set a higher emission reduction target for 2030 and a net zero target for 2050.
Senior Liberal and National Ministers almost met with Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce and senior officials on Monday afternoon to consider potential landing points ahead of the Cop26 negotiations in Glasgow. The strategy session, which included the leadership team and two other ministers, Angus Taylor and Keith Pitt, followed a meeting in the Fractive Nationals banquet hall earlier in the day.
The deliberations ahead of the UN-led climate conference in November come as the latest Guardian Essential survey among 1,097 respondents suggests that 68% of the samples taken support a more ambitious target for 2030 and a zero in 2050, while 13% of the sample did not favor the target and 19% were unsure.
The latest poll indicates that 65% of respondents who identify as coalition voters in the sample would support more ambitions for 2030 or net-zero, compared to 77% of respondents who identify themselves as Labor supporters. A higher proportion of coalition voters are either hostile to targets or insecure about them (35% of the sample compared to 23% of Labor voters).
With Australia under pressure from key allies and metropolitan liberals preparing for challenges from climate-focused independents in the country’s seats in an election in the coming months, Morrison has signaled his support for a net zero target for many months.
There has also been persistent speculation that the government could increase Australia’s current emission reduction target by 2030 by a 26-28% cut compared to the 2005 level under current considerations.
But with some nationals hostile and some MPs demanding high price tags before agreeing on targets, the coalition is more likely to trumpet an expected overachievement on current engagement in 2030 than to increase ambition.
The latest poll says that 59% of respondents agree that climate change is happening and is due to human activity, while 30% believe that we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. In June, the ratio of humans caused by warming and cyclical variations was 56% to 27%.
A majority rate climate action as either their main issue or a very important issue along with other issues that “concern me just as much” (67% of the total respondents – with 22% rating climate as their main concern and 45% saying climate is important along with other policy challenges).
The test is divided on whether Australia is currently doing enough to combat the threat of global warming – with 42% saying not enough is being done (down from 45% in June), 31% saying we are doing enough (down from 30% in June), 15% say we do too much (up from 12% in June) and 11% say they do not know (down from 13% in June).
These movements are within the margin of error of the poll, which is plus or minus 3%.
A clear majority in the sample agrees with both positive and negative statements about risks and opportunities associated with climate action, with 57% of respondents agreeing with the statements: “Australia cannot afford to be shut out of the EU or other trading markets in order not to adopt a net zero emissions before the 2050 target ”and“ Australia must follow the lead of other countries and prioritize climate change or risk being left behind ”.
On positive statements, 64% agree with the proposal: “Australian companies have the opportunity to develop expertise in renewable energy and innovative technologies that other countries will demand” and 63% agree with “Australian production can benefit from cheap electricity if more solar and wind farms were built ”.
The study shows that Morrison has registered a boost in its approval rating as the spread of the Covid-19 vaccine intensifies and lockdown states move toward reopening.
Approval for Morrison is at 54% (up from 50% a month ago) and his disapproval is at 37% (down from 41%). Approval for Morrison has increased among respondents from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s approval has also been ticked up, rising from 37% to 41% during the month, and disapproval has dropped from 36% to 34%. Morrison is still ahead of the opposition leader as the preferred prime minister (45% to 29%), but the gap between the combatants has narrowed (last month, Morrison was ahead 47% to 26%).
Apart from climate change and the gradual reopening of the lockdown states, the second controversial political issue over the last fourteen days has been the role of integrity commissions – a national conversation resurrected by the abrupt resignation of NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian.
Berejiklian announced in early October that she would step down as prime minister and leave parliament after the state anti-corruption watchdog revealed she was investigating whether she broke the law by not reporting the behavior of her former lover, former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
A number of federal ministers used the ensuing controversy to criticize the NSW Icac, arguing that a long telegraphed but yet legislated federal integrity commission should not replicate the state model.
But a strong majority of Guardian Essential respondents (78%) say they will support the creation of an independent federal anti-corruption body to monitor the behavior of our politicians and public servants. Only 11% of the sample is against.
The catalyst for Berejiklian’s resignation has shared the test, with 47% of respondents saying her sudden resignation as NSW premier makes them more supportive of an independent federal anti-corruption body, and 21% saying the event destroys their support for a federal body (32% of the respondents were unsure).