SYDNEY — Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election was largely welcomed by America’s friends as a step toward more predictable and conventional U.S. foreign policy. One close American ally, though, faces a thorny predicament as a result of Biden’s plan to build a global coalition to combat global warming: Australia.
Australia is the world’s second-largest coal exporter and top liquefied natural gas exporter, according to industry bodies, and one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases per person. This status, combined with years of hand-wringing on both sides of Australian politics over climate policies, has earned the country a reputation as a climate-change laggard.
Under pressure from coal and gas interests, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to adopt the prevailing international target of reaching net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, putting Australia at odds with the incoming U.S. administration, the European Union, Britain and Japan. Even China, a big buyer of Australian coal, has pledged to be net neutral by 2060.
Morrison, by contrast, famously brought a lump of coal into Parliament in 2017, telling those seeking bolder steps on emissions reduction: “Don’t be afraid.”