Media Releases - 08 July 2024

UK election a referendum on “no new oil and gas” and a repudiation for nature and climate policy rollback: lessons for Australia

Last week’s UK election, which resulted in an overwhelming loss for the Tories, is a stark reminder that anti-environmentalism does not win elections. The Labour party, on a promise of no new oil and gas, were able to secure a landslide victory—an outcome that should serve as a lesson to Australian politicians.

The election of the Labour Government on a policy platform that leads with, “the climate and nature crisis is the greatest long-term global challenge that we face” and includes a ban on new offshore petroleum licences, despite a vociferous fossil fuel industry campaign, was on the back of the decimation at the ballot box in Scotland of the Scottish National Party who backed the industry scare campaign.

This has implications for Australia, particularly in relation to deforestation and biodiversity risk, as international leadership from the UK places pressure on curtailing deforestation and stopping oil and gas exploration.

Tim Beshara, Manager of Policy and Strategy for the Wilderness Society, said, “The enormous election loss by Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, on the back of the short disastrous Prime Ministership of Liz Truss, marks an overwhelming rejection of the two Prime Ministers’ anti-environmental agenda of climate and nature policy rollbacks.

The UK election shows the dangers to any political party who seeks to campaign on weakening environmental protection or winding back climate action. The days of making a virtue out of anti-environmentalism are over—they are over in the UK, just as they are here. The so-called “Blue Wall” fell over environmental issues at this election in the same way that the once “blue ribbon Liberal seats” in leafy suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne are now Teal. And the fossil fuel industry capture of political parties in Scotland meant that they were out of step with the community and swept aside accordingly.

The Albanese Government should follow the lead of the incoming Starmer Labour government and move to make their current unofficial pause on issuing new offshore fossil fuel licences permanent. A transition is only a transition if you actually stop doing the thing that you are supposed to transition away from—and that means stopping it where it starts—at the issuing of exploration licences. The UK election shows that this most common sense of measures can be done without fear of payback from the fossil fuel industry.”