Will history call this "The Pope Francis effect"?

pope francis climate change

After denying climate change and declaring coal to be “good for humanity”, our Prime Minister seems to have had a change of heart on the issue overnight, with breaking reports he will announce higher-than expected emissions reduction targets next month.

Fairfax newspapers reports the Abbott Government is considering even tougher targets than conservatives in cabinet had wanted for the post-2020 period. This would bring Australia into line with international policy on climate change and possibly override Tony Abbott’s reputation as a climate-change denier.

It’s expected Mr Abbott will announce emissions reduction targets of 24 to 28 per cent by 2030, which is on par with the US and Canada. Both countries have stepped up their commitment to reducing CO2 in recent months.

So what has brought about this change of heart for the Prime Minister? Is it public pressure? Does it come from within his own party?

Some say he walks a fine line between maintaining the support of Liberal voters who have turned away from his hard-line on climate policy until now. The challenge for Mr Abbott is appeasing these voters without alienating the conservatives in his party who supported him rather than Malcolm Turnbull.

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And is it a coincidence that Mr Abbott’s new approach to climate change comes less than a week after Pope Francis’ encyclical in which he called for governments to prevent the world turning into an immense “pile of filth”?

Senator Waters said in the Senate on Monday, “The Prime Minister has failed to listen to the scientists, will he now listen to the leader of his own church and abandon his attacks on the clean energy target.”

Attorney General George Brandis responded angrily to this, saying, “I’ll tell you what we will be doing, Senator Waters, we will be setting our priorities and making our policy decisions in accordance and good public policy, not in accordance with theology.”

The new challenge for the Prime Minister will be setting a plan to meet the ambitious targets, if the Government does go ahead with them, without a carbon tax, which was a key promise of his election campaign.

What do you think has inspired the Prime Minister’s change of heart on climate change? Do you think he can win back voters?