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Irresistible Force? Achieving Carbon Pricing in Australia



Australia is one of the largest coal exporting nations in the world and its economy is underpinned by the availability of cheap fossil fuels. It is well documented that it has failed to act on climate change, and that the conservative Howard government was particularly hostile to international action. It is also well documented that 2007 was an agenda-setting period when climate change was elevated to national prominence. This paper details and interrogates the ultimately successful Labor national governments' efforts to establish an Australian carbon pricing mechanism. It considers whether irresistible normative forces for climate policy change overcame the previously immovable object of economic and political self-interest, and the power of the carbon lobby. In explaining complex climate policy dynamics, temporal scales and politics, it finds great utility in John Kingdon's pragmatic “policy window”1 as an explanation for Australia's climate policy change.