There was a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation in the air when I opened the Climate Leaders Forum at EnergyLab last Wednesday, 15 May. The audience of 40 climate leaders from a range of different organisations (SMEs and large corporates, government and NGOs) was reflecting on the importance of the outcome of Australia's federal elections on May 18 for the future of the country's climate policy.
Now, with a returned Coalition Government and most likely an approach to climate policy similar to the last few years, the private sector and state governments are in the driver's seat for any meaningful climate action.
And much needs to be done. We as Australians – or in my case, permanent residents – have the highest per capita emissions in the world. We fly a lot, eat too much animal protein, and drive big, petrol-guzzling cars. Our economy is still very much dependent on the old mantra: dig it, ship it, sell it. It's proving tough to wean our economy off its fossil-fuel dependency – here in Australia, but also across the globe.
More fundamental decarbonisation needs to happen. It needs to happen fast, and it needs to happen now.
"Our house is on fire!"
Greta Thunberg and other youth activists have finally achieved what the UN, the IPCC and global think tanks haven't managed to in years: climate change really is the talk of the town. People care. They go out on the streets. Extinction Rebellion, school strikes, you name it. They know what we all know; politicians haven't done enough. But we are all responsible, and none of us have done enough.
There are encouraging signs, though – and we all need to get involved.Thisis what the Climate Leaders Forum is about. Since launching this series about a year ago, the Climate Leaders have gone global.
South Pole have hosted events in Melbourne, Sydney, Stockholm, and Zurich. This month alone, two more are planned for Vienna and Stockholm. Further later in the year in New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong will show the strength and momentum of the movement we're building – which one of our guest speakers, Climate-KIC Australia's Belinda Whelan referred to as the "Climate Army."
So, what exactly is the Climate Leaders Forum?
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, the Climate Leaders Forum relies on active audience participation in the challenges that the speakers put forward. For Sydney, we were fortunate to have four great Climate Leaders with exciting challenges:
- Belinda Whelan, Director of Strategic Projects at Climate-KIC Australia challenged participants to help her map out what Australia would look like in 2030 if a more systemic change around transformational investments for climate action had taken hold. One of the outcomes included fully autonomous circular economies in communities in regional Australia, which today are still dominated by fossil fuel extraction. Her perspective on the Climate Leaders Forum and its impact can be found here.
- Jorge Chapa, Head of Market Transformation at the Green Building Council Australia developed some ideas on how to make all of Australia's 9 million buildings climate neutral by 2030. That's 800 buildings per day!
- Julien Gastaldi, General Manager of Natural Carbon and his group discussed the role Australia's land and agricultural sector can play to meet the demand for decarbonising the economy, and how Aboriginal communities and farmers can become engaged.
- John Davis, Commercial Director APAC and North America at South Pole and the participants of his workshop thought outside the box for engaging corporate employees for the cause of climate action
The Climate Leaders and the participants continued the lively discussions of the workshops as part of the networking drinks that served to conclude the event.
Stay tuned to find out when the next Climate Leaders Forum is being organised near you on our Climate Leaders website. Reach out to us if you want to become involved as a Climate Leader with your own challenge, or as a participant who constructively contributes to finding solutions.