Resolving climate change paradoxes – do we really have the leadership courage?

While other countries talk about green growth and deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts in Australia we are fractured. We have a highly polarised and divisive community debate.

Last night the Environment Institute and the Leaders Institute of South Australia took us beyond the division with a high profile team of panellists.

Our question – what leadership is needed to act on climate change?

The common thread on the night was vision – holding it, enabling it, moving our society to focus more on the future. However, the fact that we don’t currently have this is quite a paradox. It is manifestly in our common self-interest to act on this issue. Yet the fear and pain that people may feel seems quite out of proportion to the common explanation – financial costs.

Niki Vincent (Leaders Institute) put this succinctly introducing the forum and talking about adaptive leadership:

We are all going to have to give some stuff up. And I don’t mean the equivalent of the cost of a cup of tea in a café a day – or any of the other common economic measures about climate change.

The theme is picked up by Andrew Stock (Origin Energy). He highlights on climate change we experience news dominated by fear. At the same time we have 1,000 MW of solar installed by households across Australia. These are people acting from their hip pocket.

It’s a classic confusion. Stephen Yarwood (Lord Mayor Adelaide) illustrates it from the perspective of a business worried about action on climate change. The business person put to him that this means reducing car parking spaces and potentially trade (fewer shoppers). But, what the businesses really want is more people walking past shops, something you don’t necessarily get with more car parks and traffic.

Professor Mike Young (Environment Institute) also highlights this disproportionate fear. Changes in the Australian exchange rate, and costs caused by it for exporting industries, are massive compared to the very small (one to two per cent) climate price impact. But one is hot button topic and the exchange rate is almost disregarded.

This bizarre disjunction is mirrored with the business community and perspectives of big business attitudes. David Knox (Santos) talks about there being far more common ground between business and government than people are led to believe.

And all this is going on while we’re clearly feeling the impacts of climate change – now, as David Klingberg (Centrex Metals) points out.

But it is very hard to translate this knowledge and transcend the fears. As Senator Penny Wong explains:

It’s very hard for politicians to argue ‘people should act now for the benefit of the future’

Senator Wong also reminds us about the fragility of reform and consensus. It should never be underestimated how easy such consensus can fail. Annabel Crabb (ABC and the forum’s facilitator) ably illustrates this reflecting on how in just 4 years Australia has moved from both major political parties agreeing to, ‘a pile of political roadkill, a confused and hostile electorate’.

The common call from the whole group is to make time to dream, to vision, to talk about the future.

This work needs to be continuous to enable such change.

Download the full podcast of the event here.

6 thoughts on “Resolving climate change paradoxes – do we really have the leadership courage?

  1. Twitter stream – read the forum in 140 character summaries!

    Climate change means giving up on some things . But in this there is liberation, creativity, new exciting opportunity. #liacc @nikivincent environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    So far 20 of you have clicked #liacc – how's it looking? Does it sound good?? Feedback via hashtag pls fang Mike Seyfang

    Certainly one probably two political leaders owe the end of their jobs to an odourless colourless gas #climatechange #liacc@annabelcrabb environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    No doubt our society can tackle head on #climatechange Andrew Stock #liacc Need to vision that world environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    The marshall plan rebuilt whole country;'s Imagine what we can do to address climate change! Stock #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Klingberg Centrex metals. Supportive of Clean Energy Bill but drop the polluter tag. It's emitter #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Priorities for funding need urgent review. Climate change impacts being felt now so need to fund adaptation #liacc Klingberg environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    @annabelcrabb intros Sen Wong 'happy little vegemite now as finance minister' but probably still scar tissue from climatechange #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Hardest action for politician is to ask people to act now to make tomorrow better Wong #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Policy challenge exposes shortcomings current politcal system. Need cooperation Long term Facts (but they've become irrelevent) #liacc Wong environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Any issues with #liacc Live-Stream? Sounding/Looking good on my test laptop. @dnwallace having connection issues fang Mike Seyfang

    Need to look to the future as without this we can't get change needed Wong #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Penny Wong on leadership needed to address climate change #liacc and yes brilliantly introduced by @annabelcrabb #li AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

    rate of change from addressing climate one or two percent. Compared to exchange rate movement, such change is trivial Yong #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    why would any nation go out and subsidise the destruction of the planet? #perverse subsidies #liacc Young environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Why tax the good – like labour? And not the bad, like pollution? #liaccYoung environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Aus 600 million tons CO2 a year Santos 3.5 million Knox .25 million tons a year down now for last few years #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    fang Mike Seyfang

    good to have David Knox from Santos here to talk numbers #liaccand openly state he and his kids are challenging each other to make a diff AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

  2. Twitter stream part 2

    @stephenyarwood rekons has best job in SA. Leadership is a genuinely intimate experience. Everyone has an opinion on what Mayor does #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Mum, Dad, am I being authentic? #liacc fang Mike Seyfang

    @StephenYarwood sadly (for his mother) not wearing a tie whilst giving his talk on leadership at #liacc and is being #authentic #adelaide AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

    @stephenyarwood Am I being authentic? Ask your children, ask your parents. That's why electic car and state 'I support #carbontax” #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Better late than never #liacc (@ Masonic Lecture Hall) nwynn Noriko

    Wong: have a very wide gap between what makes headlines and what Matters. So this is about a perspective longer term thinking shift #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    We have a very wide gap between what is a headline and what matters – Penny Wong #liacc ConservationSA Conservation SA

    We need people to look to the future and change perspective, we need leaders across the community – Penny Wong #liacc nwynn Noriko

    Klingberg somehow the dialogue with the corporate world has gone of the rails : Knox to respond #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Knox but believe there is far more common ground than people have been led to believe #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    The head of Santos is talking about the need to stay competitive in energy markets and the need to do it thoughtfully #liacc ConservationSA Conservation SA

    “risks, consequences, mitigating strategies” why isnt business acting on climate change “intl competitiveness and roi” says Knox #liacc AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

    does the need to be competitive in global markets justify the widespread environmental damage #CSG will cause in Australia? #liacc ConservationSA Conservation SA

    Stock Significant part of Australian community that will put hand in pocket to act on climate change. 1000MW solar #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    @annabelcrabb Leadership is sounding like delivering and engaging people on a vision for the future #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    @environmentinst doing a great job of tweeting forum discussion re leadership and climate change at #liacc gdrosser Glynis Rosser

    Wong It's not an easy explanation National political policy debate does not enable complexity. Binary Black and white debate #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    TrendsAdelaide Trendsmap Adelaide

    The way we are conducting our national policy debate doesn't allow for complexity – Penny Wong #liacc ConservationSA Conservation SA

    hey, where's Media Mike? or anyone from SA State politics. #liacc AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

    Wong Learned how fragile the conditions for reform are. 2008 had business and ngo and bipartisan support. Consensus destroyed. #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    @ nwynn Noriko

  3. Twitter stream part 3

    RT @TrendsAdelaide: #liacc is now trending in Livestream simondivecha Simon Divecha

    RT @TrendsAdelaide: #liacc is now trending in Livestream environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    fang Mike Seyfang

    Leadership is about being able to stand in other peoples eyes. how they think and how frame information #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Now at #liacc panel on Leadership & Climate Change. How to bring about reform? Agreed, hard to conduct a real debate using soundbites. PennyWrites Senator Penny Wright

    Everyone is talking about leadership by consensus, what about the transformative leader who will push, pull and cajole change #liacc nwynn Noriko

    fang Mike Seyfang

    Young An Important thing is to bring structure to the debate. Can't jump climate to adaptation to business trading issues casually #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    @ dnwallace David N Wallace

    Wong Once passed it will enable the debate to reset. The sky won't have fallen so may shift us pass some of the rankor, agression #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    We need to reset the debate (on climate change) – Penny Wong #liacc ConservationSA Conservation SA

    @annabelcrabb asks us to respect climate change consensus as that's why we're here tonight #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    great question (or do we take that as a comment) Mark Parnell Greens MP #liacc AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

    Knox We're going to need to pull every single lever to address climate change. Look under every single rock. No silver bullet #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    “@environmentinst: Leadership is about being able to stand in other peoples eyes. how they think and how frame information #liacc” agree! enam279 Adriani Sunuddin

    liking the cut of Andrew Stock's jib on business/ community/ individual approach to #climate change (Origin Energy) #liacc AnthonyColes Anthony Coles

    Young compare Australia to EU. EU stopped debating climate now talks green growth. We don't talk about this shape and the difference#liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    .@markparnellmlc just spoke about our #GreenourGrid campaign to replace Playford B with Concentrated Solar Thermal technology #liacc ConservationSA Conservation SA

  4. Twitter stream part 4

    Klingberg congratulates questioner for using word 'emitters' not polluters #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Wayne Meyer What does the future look like for our children and our grandchildren. Why don't we hear this asks panel #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Wayne Meyer of @environmentinst brings up a very good point about the importance of vision and leadership #liacc nwynn Noriko

    RT @nwynn: @StephenYarwood dreams of leadership that doesn't think in 4 year terms, once that looks to the future and has narrative#liacc michaelroelink Michael Roelink

    .@StephenYarwood dreams of leadership that doesn't think in 4 year terms, one that looks to the future and has narrative #liacc nwynn Noriko

    Knox Adelaide has chance to be one of the cleanest low carbon city in the world. We should grab this vision #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Young it's not a three sided story we have to look for the indepth discussion. Shaping the vision and the understanding #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Q. #liacc Politics of fear trumps politics of hope and vision. How do we respond @stephenyarwood challenges the question. not his experience environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    How to rebuild consensus. how do we assist? Wong answers this requires compromise, engagement, perfect is not enemy of the good #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    Wong Understand that when we throw a bomb we can break down the very structures we need to support our aims #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

    People in pacific now having direct effect Questioner says people now making decisions to lose land culture today #liacc environmentinst EnvironmentInstitute

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