Tony Abbott’s loss may be the environment’s gain

Australia’s Liberal Party, which is actually its biggest conservative party because the world outside of America is a land of many contrasts (I kid!), changed leaders today, which also means that Australia changed prime ministers. Tony Abbott, who had led the party since 2009 and the country since 2013, was replaced by the guy he succeeded as party leader in 2009, Malcolm Turnbull.

Bye, Tony! (Wikimedia)

Australia just isn’t my beat, but Josh Keating does a typically thorough job of summing up what happened. Abbott’s budget cuts and regressive social policies haven’t been terribly popular with the Australian public, and the party was worried that next year’s elections wouldn’t go well for it with Abbott still at the helm. But I did want to highlight this:

Turnbull promised on Monday a “thoroughly Liberal government,” but also has previously voiced his support for same-sex marriage and for tougher action on climate change, putting him at odds with many conservatives within his own party. When Turnbull led the Liberal party the last time, he supported the Labor-controlled government’s emissions-trading scheme, which led directly to his ouster by Abbott in 2009. He has publicly described Abbott’s climate change stance as “bullshit.”

Under Abbott, who has heavily promoted the country’s coal industry and flirted with outright climate change denialism, the country has become something of an outlier on environmental policy. Despite Turnbull’s personal beliefs, he probably won’t make many changes right away. Turnbull said he would continue to follow the government’s existing climate policies for now. (He didn’t address same-sex marriage).

Turnbull can say he’s not going to change policy on climate change, but if he’s worried about next year’s elections, and he’s paying attention to Australian public opinion, then he’d be wise to make some changes anyway. So this might turn out to have been a pretty good day for the planet, all things considered.

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