US elections and the environment: What does it mean for Australia?

As the second Tuesday of November is getting closer, all eyes are turning to the US, where presidential elections of unprecedented significance are about to take place. In Australia, the main concern around the election outcome has been the implication that it may have on the US-Australia strategic alliance, predominantly around national defense issues.
Not much attention has been given to the possible effects that US presidential election outcome might have on the environment, globally and in Australia. The positions of the two candidates on the environment are quite clear, and clearly reflecting the predominant views of the respective constituencies.
In particular, possible Trump presidency is seen as a big threat to global climate negotiations and treaties. This is in sharp contrast to Clinton, who is likely to continue the path that Obama’s presidency has set, although perhaps treading more cautiously in light of the possible opposition at home.
What does this all mean for Australia?
Barrack Obama subtly criticised the Australian government for not doing enough on climate change and for not putting sufficient safeguards to preserve the Great Barrier Reef. A Clinton administration is likely to continue with looking for a global leadership on dealing with climate change, and is likely to put some pressure on Australia to follow suit.
In contrast, a win for Trump is going to resonate strongly with the skeptical views on climate change in Australia, which are alive and well, and indeed well represented in our Parliament. The implication is likely to be that policy will move further away from economically effective mechanisms for pricing carbon, which have been strongly advocated by the economics profession.
So, those of us who believe that something needs to be done about carbon emissions, and that the right way to go about it is by adequately pricing them, are going to be hoping for the outcome of the US presidential election that it seems most of the world is hoping for. But, will the US voters play to those hopes? I am really not so sure about it any more! Sort of dreading the news that is about to hit us this week!

Author: Tiho Ancev

Tiho Ancev is a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the School of Economics, University of Sydney. His main research areas are agricultural, environmental, natural resource and energy economics. Tiho’s main contributions have been in water economics and policy, economics of energy, economics of air pollution and climate change policies, and economics of precision agriculture and agricultural input use. He has published widely on these topics in top international peer reviewed journals. Tiho has led and contributed to national and international research projects in these research areas. He is currently the Managing Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.