A victory by Joe Biden in November's presidential election may be just what the world needs to reset the climate change narrative, recognise the urgency of the challenge, and initiate a decisive response.
Trump's negativity and denialism - including withdrawing the US from the Paris agreement - undoubtedly set back the global climate response, even though US cities and businesses stuck with the challenge, and other countries globally stepped up their responses to somewhat fill the gap.
The Morrison government has essentially used the Trump position to embolden its denialism and prejudice.
Rather than recognise the opportunity and imperative of a COVID recovery strategy to embrace pathways to a low carbon Australia over the next three decades, it has focused on slogans such as "technology not taxes". It is working on paying out to its mates in the gas industry and protecting those in the fossil fuel industries more generally, despite overwhelming evidence of the irresponsibility of such an approach -and ignoring the clear majority of broad-based public opinion.
The key elements of Biden's position as declared so far are a "green" energy program including US$4 trillion to be spent over 4 years on climate policy, a commitment to "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050, and to decarbonised electricity by 2035. This is against the background of Boris Johnson's commitments to accelerate the UK's climate response. He has committed to net zero by 2050, the acceleration of the electrification of the vehicle fleet, and to lead the world on climate by hosting the Glasgow UN COP26 Summit when it is eventually held.
The Morrison government has essentially used the Trump position to embolden its denialism.
There is considerable skepticism as to what Boris really believes on climate, and about how genuine his commitments are. Johnson has been able to walk both sides of the street on climate issues over the years, just as he did on Brexit having written two opposing op eds both in favour of remaining and leaving. So despite his stated climate commitments, he fired Claire O'Neill the initial UK COP president. She responded with a scathing attack accusing Johnson of "not getting" climate change, of failing to devote sufficient resources to summit preparations, and being fundamentally untrustworthy.
Nevertheless, just as circumstances drove Johnson to embrace Brexit with a passion and make it a hallmark of his prime ministership, it seems reasonable to expect that - in the after glow of a Biden win and the US thereby threatening to emerge as "the" climate leader - Johnson wouldn't fail to rise to the competitive challenge, seeing him double down on climate and using Glasgow as his opportunity and platform.
It would then also seem reasonable to expect the recently deserted European community, the Chinese and others to also embrace the competitive challenge, with the result that the climate challenge is finally taken as urgent, and a serious threat to our global future. We all must hope so!
In such circumstances, in the run up to our next federal election maybe, just maybe, even populous/marketing Morrison could put pragmatism ahead of prejudice, and not want to miss out on the comradery of what would be a significant global megatrend.
Morrison has consistently ignored the political and other messages on climate. He has ignored the overwhelming public support for decisive action evident in a multiplicity of polls and surveys - 90 per cent of respondents in the latest Lowy Survey - not to mention election results in previously safe seats such as Wentworth. He has ignored the calls by business, including the big coal miners who are committed to exiting thermal coal, and have embraced significant climate policies of their own, as well as the gathering snowball of companies committing to zero emissions, 100 per cent renewable energy, and so on.
He has also ignored the gathering momentum in the investor community with the big asset owners - sovereign wealth funds, super funds - to move out of climate exposed investments, and shareholder actions at the AGMs forcing a reset by the big oil, gas, coal and other polluters, including significant write downs of their corporate values. Finally, he has ignored the commitments to zero emissions by all our states, and local government recognitions of the climate emergency. Morrison has really adopted the image of the little boy with his finger in the dyke. He will not be able to avoid the crack, and then the flood, of what could be unleashed by a Biden victory.
John Hewson is a former federal Liberal opposition leader.