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.
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.