Protest Works: Australian Prime Minister Backtracks (A Bit) on Climate Change

©. Students striking in Australia/ Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

He's not exactly treating it like a crisis. But at least he's doing something...

When I wrote about mining giant Glencore pledging to cap its coal production, I did not talk about Michelle Landry, the Australian government minister who described the company's move as a "kick in the guts". You see, coal still carries a lot of clout in Australia. This might also explain why Prime Minister Scott Morrison—who once proudly brandished a lump of coal in Parliament—has traditionally been skeptical, if not downright hostile, toward aggressive climate action.

But something may be changing.

With school strikes sweeping Australia, and an election coming up, Business Green reports that Morrison is announcing a new fund for (apparently) meeting Australia's 2030 emissions reduction targets.

It mostly appears to be about small scale efforts; however, it includes about AUS$2bn for tree planting and land restoration, as well as AUS$1.5bn for other climate-related efforts such as renewable energy and electric vehicle programs. Better than nothing, for sure, but hardly a measure of bold action in the face of a crisis—or indeed much to crow about compared to the Labour party's promises to stop funding coal-fired power and pursue a National Energy Guarantee.

Morrison appears to be hoping that folks will settle for the "environment or economy" red herring that has served climate-denying politicians in the past:

However powerful the coal lobby, it's becoming increasingly hard to believe that this false debate can last much longer. As the Great Barrier Reef continues its dramatic decline, as the dangerous and record breaking heat waves become more common, and as mining unions start embracing the idea of transition and diversification, the writing is on the wall for climate incrementalism.

Make no mistake: half measures are no longer enough. But it's still good to see the holdouts on the back foot.