Does Australia Have the Most Anti-Green Government on Earth?

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Feb. 4 2014 4:37 PM

Does Australia Have the Most Anti-Green Government on Earth?

156721116-an-aerial-view-of-vlassof-cay-in-the-great-barrier-reef
An aerial view of Vlassof Cay in the Great Barrier Reef is seen on Nov. 14, 2012, in Cairns, Australia.

Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Following the Australian government’s recent decision to approve the dumping of dredged sediment from a coal port expansion in Queensland into the Great Barrier Reef Park, Britain’s Independent newspaper asks whether Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government is “the most hostile to his nation’s environment in history?”* In light of a number of recent actions, it may be worth going beyond that to ask whether it’s currently the most hostile government to the environment on Earth.

The reef decision has attracted international attention, but it’s hardly out of character. As the article notes, Abbott—who took power last September—has already eliminated three conservation agencies and has not yet bothered to appoint a science minister. He has famously argued that “The climate change argument is absolute crap.” (He later backtracked on the statement.) He campaigned for office on a platform of eliminating the country’s recently passed carbon tax, a goal he calls his "top legislative priority.”

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He has pushed to eliminate the World Heritage designation of 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s forests to allow for logging. The barrier reef move is part of a long-term plan to expand the country’s coal exports to China and India.

Australia may not have the net environmental impact of countries like China and the United States—although its carbon emissions per capita are higher than both of theirs, as well as that of every other large country in the world—but I’m not sure there’s another government in the world that seems so unconcerned with even paying lip service to the environment. 

Update, Feb. 5, 2014: The government has announced that it plans to repeal the carbon tax in July.

*Correction, Feb. 4, 2014: This post originally misspelled Tony Abbott's last name.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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