“The COVID virus has been a case of biology confronting and really shaking the complacency of day-to-day politics with a physical reality of sickness and death on a scale we haven’t seen for a very long time,” Turnbull told Policy Exchange.
“And so the question really is: why do so many people in government and so many people in politics – particularly in the Anglosphere – not take the scientific evidence on climate change just as seriously?
“When is physics going to mug political complacency and denialism? When will that happen just as biology has mugged the complacency of politics with respect to the virus?”
Turnbull was speaking alongside Mark Carney, the former Governor of the Bank of England, who is now serving pro bono as the UN special envoy for climate action and finance.
Both men took part in the discussion from their homes via Zoom. Turnbull appeared in front of a backdrop which included two copies of his recently published memoir.
He revived his attacks on the right-wing of the Liberal party, vested interests and the Murdoch-owned media in Australia for what he said was their destruction of his attempts to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions and the detonation of his premiership.
Carney praised Turnbull’s book and said the former Liberal leader had “true political courage.” He also said the restructuring of economies after the pandemic meant there was an opportunity for investment in greener energy.
“We have a situation with climate change which will involve every country in the world and from which we can’t self-isolate,” Carney said.
Carbon border taxes inevitable says Turnbull
Both men were asked about their views on carbon border taxes, where a country that is reducing its emissions faster than a country it is trading with applies tariffs to address the imbalance.
Turnbull said they were “inevitable” with Australia a target.
“The Europeans have made it very clear to Australia, publicly, that we should expect in the free trade agreement that the government has been negotiating for some time with the EU that there will be climate change elements in it,” he said.
“It’s an old sore but a tonne of CO2 has the same impact on the world’s climate, regardless of where its emitted, so we all have an interest in everyone else’s emissions.
“So I think it is inevitable and I do support them as a matter of principle.”
Two sources who have taken part in Australia’s ongoing negotiations with the EU told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that such no terms have been presented to Australia and that they would be rejected by Australia anyway.
Carney said such taxes should be avoided. “I wouldn’t say that I’m absolutely against them,” he said.
“I wouldn’t put them in place now and it would be an unfortunate set of circumstances if we end up with big enough differences in ambition that they become necessary.
“I don’t think we’re in that position.”
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.