Privately the resources and agriculture spokesman, who represents the NSW election of Hunter, has raised with his colleagues his fear the ALP is in permanent opposition.
“It would be a mistake to conclude that Joe Biden’s narrow win, or indeed the Congressional results, are a green light for climate change policies that leave Labor’s traditional base behind,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“It should though put pressure on Scott Morrison to embrace the 2050 net zero emissions target and to take more action.”
Federal Labor has been embroiled in a public battle between Mr Fitzgibbon, Mr Albanese, and energy spokesman Mark Butler over Labor’s climate language, in particular towards gas, which last month triggered a process whereby the ALP agreed to support new gas projects, subject to environmental approvals and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
Mr Fitzgibbon has consistently warned the party it will lose blue-collar workers and fail to regain seats in regional areas, including north Queensland, unless it changes its message on climate change.
Mr Albanese on Sunday pointed to the fact Mr Biden had campaigned on the promise of action on climate change.
“His victory means big players in our region – the US, China, Japan and South Korea – are committed to reducing carbon emissions and supporting growth in renewables,” he said.
“Other countries have accepted the reality of climate change and are pursuing new industries and jobs of the future in renewable energy.”
Mr Biden has vowed to eliminate carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035 and net zero across the economy by 2050.
He had also pledged $2 trillion in climate spending in a ‘Green New Deal’ intended to drag the country out of its pandemic recession and vowed to mobilise other nations to make deeper cuts in their own carbon emissions.
But federal government figures privately pointed to the fact the Democrats’ failure to sweep to victory in the US Senate election means it will be much harder to get bold climate change policy passed in the coming years.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Mr Biden’s commitment to take the US back into the Paris Agreement and praised his commitment to investing in new low-emissions technology.
Mr Morrison said he was committed to taking action on climate change through Kyoto 2 targets and the government’s 2030 commitments to cut emissions by up to 28 per cent.
“We want to see global emissions fall and it’s not enough for us to make commitments,” Mr Morrison said.
“We need the transformational technologies that are scalable and affordable for the developing world as well because that is where all the emissions increases are coming from in the decade ahead in the next 20 years.”
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra