There’s reason for cautious optimism that Malcolm Turnbull will take decisive action on climate change in the wake of this month’s global climate talks, despite disapproval from the conservative rump of his own party.

In the lead up to COP 21 in Paris, Turnbull has allowed his negotiators far more flexibility than was allowed under the Abbott regime, and remains open to supporting a long-term goal for the world to be “carbon neutral” by 2050.

Australia’s official line is that it supports a global climate target of 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, but as Giles Parkinson, writes over at Renew Economy: “There is considerable pressure for the world to adopt a more ambitious target of 1.5 degrees C, because capping warming at 2 degrees C only leaves a 50-50 chance of avoiding the impact of runaway climate change.”

Under Turnbull, Australia remains open to this more ambitious target. The change in attitude is such that Australia is now being seen as a facilitator rather than an obstacle in the talks — as it had been under Abbott.

If there is a strong agreement in Paris, this will give Turnbull the justification to move hard on climate policy here in Australia.

And that will be the real test of Turnbull’s cojones on climate. So far, apart from the lack of “wind turbines are ugly” rhetoric, Turnbull has changed nothing on the policy front since taking over from the former PM, who famously declared the science behind climate change was absolute crap. The world will be watching.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey