Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US President Joe Biden recently unveiled a multi-billion-dollar plan to strengthen Australia’s domestic minerals industry, aiming to address supply chain vulnerabilities and counter China’s market dominance.
However, the investment was framed as key to the future of an “innovation alliance” between the two countries, with a key benefit being its utility to clean energy technologies like electric vehicles. Both countries stand to gain from this momentum on climate-related issues, but publicly framing it as such is equally essential.
A US Studies Centre poll revealed a generational divide in how Australians view their country’s closest ally, the US. Young Australians hold a less rosy view of US behaviour in Asia than older Australians, with fewer than a quarter of those aged 18-34 agreeing the US plays a helpful role in the region. They are also less likely to believe the US alliance makes Australia safer, and only a third of those aged 18-34 think the AUKUS pact is a good idea for Australia.
Support for the “unbreakable alliance” among young Australians is splintering due to the strategic needs of the growing competition between the US and China. Australian officials aim to deter regional aggression and respond to Beijing’s assertiveness, but young Australians aged 18–34 believe their country should prioritize fighting climate change over competing with China.
A polling found that 57% of young Australians think their country should prioritize fighting climate change over competing with China. This is unsurprising, as young people have grown up in a time when unprecedented climatic events are the new norm and appear a much greater and more immediate threat than Beijing’s geostrategic ambitions. To ensure the Australia-US alliance endures, leaders must embrace the challenge of climate change with the same urgency as they have responded to China’s challenge to the regional order. Albanese and Biden emphasized climate as a crucial aspect of the Australia-US relationship, combining decades of defense and economic cooperation as the “third pillar.”
Australia’s commitment to climate action, particularly with its Pacific neighbours, is crucial. Australia’s joint bid to host COP31 and re-joining the UN-backed Green Climate Fund will demonstrate its commitment to climate action. With China’s Belt and Road Initiative tenth anniversary, there is growing pressure to deliver climate initiatives and infrastructure in the Pacific. This presents an opportunity to offer a values-based alternative to Beijing’s infrastructure deals. Albanese’s state visit is one positive step towards translating the compact’s ambitions into concrete action. Both Albanese and Biden must ensure climate remains firmly on the agenda, as young people’s support depends on it.