Bushfire tragedies, and deluges of rain and hail have concentrated public attention on climate change, extreme weather events and natural disasters and what now needs to be done to respond to these challenges both in Australia and around the world. The IMF in its latest economic update has called out drought and bushfires in Australia when highlighting the economic risks and challenges of climate change.
The immediate priority is to address the needs of those directly impacted by the bushfires and to rebuild impacted communities, physically, economically and emotionally. But we must also reflect on these events with a longer-term eye to the impacts of climate change and the actions and responses we prioritise as a nation. Because the challenges, implications and policy considerations are both short and long term, and they are significant.
Consideration of how Australia adapts over the longer term to build resilience in the face of climate change is critical to future prosperity and must be a priority. As the foreword of IAG’s November 2019 report Severe Weather in a Changing Climate
“Climate change is already well underway and considered by many to be the greatest risk currently facing humanity….Our communities in Australia are exposed to just about every hazard this world can throw at them, from earthquakes to storms and cyclones to bushfires and devastating floods.
Protecting communities requires greater investment in resilience and mitigation planning – be it from governments, businesses, community organisations or individuals – which will reduce the physical, economic and social recovery costs that follow a disaster.”
While Australia’s focus at present is sharply on bushfires the national conversation on adaptation must extend beyond fires and the most recent crisis. Australia must reflect on resilience in the face of a broad range of extreme weather and events and the shifting regional impacts of these. Reflecting on all dimensions of resilience needs careful consideration of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, sectors and levels of government.
To fully inform an effective and comprehensive climate adaptation strategy, discussions must take place around the country, involve all jurisdictions and take into account the perspectives of different sectors and stakeholders. CEDA will use its trusted platforms and broad geographic and sectoral reach to promote and enable these conversations. We will establish a national program of climate change adaptation discussions in our 2020 agenda to share ideas and insights using the Federal Government’s 2015 National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy
as a starting point. CEDA will engage with our members and other key stakeholders across the business, government, academic and community sectors to build a comprehensive agenda in pursuit of the most effective and timely solutions and responses.
The bushfire tragedies have also prompted debate regarding emissions reduction. Adding to this conversation has been the recent BIS ‘green swan’ report, which highlighted the challenges associated with striking the ‘just right’ path in transitioning to a lower carbon future – noting risks and costs associated with moving too slowly, but also too quickly. Anyone following electricity/energy policy developments and discussions in Australia in recent years, including the numerous CEDA discussions and events, will be well versed in debates about the ‘just right’ pace of transition.
As the CEO of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, I must highlight the role of energy as a driver of economic development. Australia is a resource and energy rich country that should fully embrace the great opportunity or ‘mission’ of the development of technological solutions that leverage our comparative energy advantages – including importantly renewable energy – as we transition to a low carbon future. This is essentially the theme of Ross Garnaut’s recent book, Superpower: Australia's Low-Carbon Opportunity
, and an issue that will be high on CEDA’s agenda and program of events. Ross has been a regular CEDA contributor and you can see my interview with him here.
CEDA recognises that many businesses in Australia are proactively responding to the risks and challenges associated with climate change, emissions reduction and sustainability more broadly – not least because their investors and stakeholders expect them to.
The business response has included improved transparency and reporting about their actions and responses, with an increasing number of companies using the framework of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reporting against the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Greater transparency around risks and responses to climate change and sustainability more broadly is important to building community understanding and confidence and promoting constructive discussion and debate. It is also consistent with the findings of CEDA’s Company Pulse survey
(link) that showed the majority of people expect businesses to be equally focused on their financial, social and environmental performance. CEDA will be looking to facilitate improved transparency and reporting through the establishment of a network for CEDA members to share and leverage learnings on the adoption of and reporting against the SDGs and TCFD recommendations. We will have more to say about this in the very near future.
Australia’s globally facing businesses factor into their considerations international as well as domestic climate change developments and policies. For those interested, an update on international climate change policy is included in CEDA’s 2020 Economic and Political Overview
, which is scheduled to be released on 12 February 2020. The report will be available on our website and we will be holding events around the country to debate and discuss the biggest issues shaping economics and policy in 2020. Climate change is sure to feature, so please come along and join that, and other, important conversations.