There is no doubt the climate is changing and it seems the political climate is also finally turning.
The man who infamously tossed a lump of coal around in Parliament saying it wouldn’t hurt you is now Prime Minister, and Scott Morrison – after getting away with one election – has finally sniffed the breeze and discovered that no matter what the right wing rump of the Coalition may believe, the rest of the world is moving on and quickly.
Although it still may not be quickly enough.
While Mr Morrison was away in Washington courting the Americans and facing up to the climate facts, his Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was delivering a wake-up call to the nation about how the financial markets had factored in the need to cut emissions and make the energy transition.
“Australia has a lot at stake. We cannot run the risk that markets falsely assume we are not transitioning in line with the rest of the world,” he said.
“Were we to find ourselves in that position, it would increase the cost of capital and reduce its availability, be it debt or equity.”
He called for investment in emissions reduction in all sectors, including agriculture, mining, and manufacturing.
Seven years after Tony Abbott axed the carbon tax, Australia is also facing carbon tariffs from its trading partners.
Mr Morrison returned from the US spruiking Australia as potential renewable energy superpower, sounding very much like ANU vice-chancellor professor Brian Schmidt.
He’s even talked about Australia exporting technology to the likes of India to help drive emissions down, not mentioning of course the fact that his government has approved the Adani coal mine in Queensland from which its Indian proponents want to send the black stuff to India too.
This is all about preparing the ground for the Federal Government to adopt a target of net zero emissions by 2050 that Mr Morrison, or whoever is going, can take to the Glasgow climate summit.
But it’s an old trick to hold out as long as you can and then relent, to accentuate the supposed concession.
After a lost decade of climate wars it appears the federal Liberal Party at least is facing up to what most of them knew was the truth all along but were still happy to go to elections benefiting from the divisiveness.
It isn’t news that the financial markets accept the science and are moving accordingly, the money has been moving in behind the energy transition for years. What’s new is that it has all caught up with the Morrison Government, as have the positions of our closest allies, who also understand the security threats climate change poses.
While the Federal Government has been a laggard, the states and territories, including the ACT, have adopted more aggressive climate policies and targets, helping to cut Australia’s emissions, something Mr Morrison is happy to claim credit for.
But the Federal Government is still stacking its clean and renewable energy agencies with fossil fuel representatives and changing their rules so coal and gas can benefit from funding for low-emission technologies that now include the unproven carbon sequestration.
It is still pursuing policies and spending taxpayers’ money to keep Australia dependent on fossil fuels, such as its plan to allow subsidies for coal and gas-fired power stations as part of reforms to shore up reliability of the electricity grid, dubbed Coalkeeper by critics.
Coalition members continue to claim that coal has a long future ahead of it even though the global consensus is that its days are numbered.
Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg’s rhetoric means nothing if they don’t actually walk the talk.
It may be galling for scientists and climate activists, who have been pilloried for years, to hear these two now calling for emission reductions so the planet can avert catastrophic climate change and global heating, but better late than never.
The problem is it will take considerable political front to get away with the switch and, really, their credibility should be shredded.
Why should Australia trust the Coalition to believe in and deliver the energy transition the country and the world needs?
The other problem is that now the point has been conceded, how do you argue against accelerating the change in the face of industry and financial momentum, and evidence that the world needs to do even more to stave off the impacts of its fossil fuel addiction?
For the man who warned about electric vehicle proponents wanting to steal the Australian weekend at the last election, it will be deft trick to go to the next poll as a climate hero and hold his Coalition together.
It should be a gift to Labor but it has endured its own climate wars of late.
For those on the front line in coal mines, gas fields and on the land, the time has come for honesty, plain talk and a plan to transition them to the new jobs of the green economy, not keep feeding them false hope.