by Peter Castellas, Chief Executive Officer of the Carbon Market Institute.
Before I get too starry eyed about being optimistic, I do want to acknowledge the reasons why those of us who work in the wonderful world of climate change have every right to feel desperately despondent: Trump’s withdrawal from Paris; the planet’s lack of immunity to increasingly extreme and catastrophic weather events; the culpable and inexplicable ongoing media promotion of climate scepticism; the calamitous bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef; and in Canberra, the short-term nature and politically expedient polarisation of the national policy debate, and so on….Ahhrrggg!
But the reasons for optimism? There are a lot of nations, states, cities, companies, communities and individuals who share a sense of urgency about the climate change challenge and are demonstrating that it is within our power to focus on the challenge and act.
In his opening address to the historic Paris Climate conference the great former US President Barack Obama, said “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” Compelling words that resonate deeply.
In Australia, despite any real or perceived political inertia, we are seeing some exciting developments that are defining the unstoppable momentum of the economic transition that is underway.
Leading companies in corporate Australia (many who we are fortunate to have as members of CMI) are actively developing strategies and scenarios to manage the way climate change is permeating the executive and board agenda in a material way. Corporate responses to addressing climate change have moved ahead of the domestic policy debate and are resulting in an elevation of the issue’s strategic importance; questions from analysts and shareholders on climate risk and disclosure; an increased demand for internal capacity building; and a need for a deeper understanding of the changing international operating environment.
Investments in clean energy generation continue at a rapid pace. According to the Clean Energy Council, renewable energy projects will deliver an unprecedented $8.7 billion in investment in 2017, creating more than 4680 direct jobs. Our best scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are working away on many discreet projects, and last week the entrepreneurial rockstar Elon Musk held a party in South Australia to mark the half way stage of the construction of the world’s most powerful lithium ion battery.
The policies and actions at the state level, particularly in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria also reflect that at the sub national level economic activity can be created around the long-term state-based commitment to zero-net emissions. Nascent industries such as electric vehicles and carbon farming will join the ranks of the more mature, clean energy and green building sectors as real creators of jobs and investment.
On the international front, the impact of game changing policy developments in two of the world’s largest emitters, China and India, are (finally) starting to get the attention of companies in Australia’s emissions-intensive-trade-exposed-high carbon-risk economy (see articles below). The Green Climate Fund is starting to ramp up investments and the work has begun on the development of the rule book to turn Paris achievements, as President Obama said “into an enduring framework for human progress – not a stopgap solution, but a long-term strategy that gives the world confidence in a low-carbon future.”
And coming out of our universities, there is a talented, passionate, idealistic young generation waiting and willing for our business and government leaders to create the pathways to rewarding, meaningful and sustainable careers.
And so having quoted a former head of state, it would be remiss of me not to quote our own Australian Prime Minister who also said at the opening of the Paris conference two years ago:
“From Australia we come with confidence and optimism. We are not daunted by our challenge. It inspires us. It energises us. We do not doubt the implications of the science, or the scale of the challenge. But above all we do not doubt the capacity of humanity to meet it.”
Plenty to be excited and optimistic about.