Posted by John Byatt
If you are not scared or getting scared, you are not paying attention. Yet another rollercoaster year for climate policy and investment is ending as a remarkable chorus of conservative voices from the World Bank, the World Meteorological Organisation, the International Energy Agency and others state that climate change is happening and on track to get much worse in terms of danger and expense. These are realities, not just risks.
That the UN talks in Doha didn’t reflect that urgency was frustrating. But they made painstaking progress towards a global agreement by 2015 covering all major emitters. By establishing a framework for monitoring and verifying the commitments and action of countries, such an agreement is required for the trust and ambition needed for the multi-decadal, multi-national challenge ahead. Getting the vastly greater ambition needed on to that platform (or sooner) requires a reset within member nations with leadership, not just from politicians but from community, business and investors.
Since its establishment in 2008, The Climate Institute’s Asset Owner’s Disclosure Project has both sought from and assisted leadership from Australian investors, particularly those looking after your and my retirement savings. This week with the AODP, now an independent body chaired by Dr John Hewson, we launched the results of the first global survey of superannuation and other funds’ management of climate risks. As Dr Hewson said, it found greenwash and reckless mismanagement, among some signs of progress. We will continue our focus on these investors in the new year. In the meantime, congratulations to Local Government Super for topping this year’s index.
We are about to enter an election year without the carbon price scares but with plenty of sound and fury across the political spectrum. Australia’s high carbon economy is a high risk economy with high levels of political, economic and cultural inertia that needs to be engaged.
We should focus on reducing Australia’s carbon addiction. But that shouldn’t convert into carbon nationalism which ignores the off-shore atmospheric reductions that can be driven by our carbon laws.
We should recast investment and political agendas, though I admit to being troubled by war effort analogies. This is a rescue effort of mammoth and multi-decadal proportions. Some yearn for Churchillian efforts and other hero figures,. While I respect where they are coming from, I struggle to see how a war and sacrifice agenda can sustainably surmount our political, media (social and traditional), cultural and economic forces of inertia.
The challenge is one of redefining prosperity, re-focusing on carbon and energy productivity, re-aligning investment and risk horizons and re-engaging people as citizens not consumers. It is also a challenge of holding to account those in politics and business who refuse to recognise the risks and ignore the opportunities in responding to climate change.
We’ll have plenty of challenges and roller coaster rides next year, so I hope you all get time to rest and recharge with your families.
John Connor | CEO, The Climate Institute