Politics preventing climate policy progress

25 June 2020

In the COVID-19 era global carbon emissions have dropped by over 10 per cent and in parts of India people have seen the Himalayas for the first time. But will this gain be wiped out during recovery? That was one of the key questions tackled by leading experts during the Crawford Leadership Forum discussion on Australia, climate change and the pandemic.

ANU expert Professor Kenneth Baldwin hosted the panel, which included Andrew Liveris, Former Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company; Emma Herd, CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change; and Jo Evans, Deputy Secretary of Climate Change & Energy Innovation in the Australian Government's Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Do we have a choice between a green recovery from COVID-19 or some other way? Emma Herd believes this is a false debate-we have no choice.   

Carbon risk remains a financial risk so investors must be integrating climate change into all decisions.

"Investors don't have a choice with climate change decarbonisation as it is one of the key changes for their business models," she explained.

Andrew Liveris agreed that businesses must become more invested in climate action. We are already seeing this with bold CEOs and boards stepping up by putting in targets, he said.

However, global governance is not moving in the same direction, Liveris believes.

"If you look at the values-based systems we are turning tribal. The Paris agreements will not work.

"We have to create a golden triangle of business, civil society and government in our countries to truly be effective in this issue."

Leveris and Heard also share the view that politics is not serving to progress climate policy in Australia.

We aren't changing the way we do things in Australia "because politics is a contest of ideas", Liveris said.

The fact that the energy sector in Australia needs modernising, de-carbonising and investment should surely be grounds for agreement, Heard asserted.

"Nobody is arguing the current state of Australian climate and energy policy is best serving us."

Jo Evans was much more optimistic about the state of climate policy in Australia, believing the "bones are already in place". We will continue to need a global united coalition of action to move emissions down, she said.

Evans also advocated the roles for gas in the transition to a low emissions economy.

"In Australia, gas can stabilise the electricity system-renewables and gas can work together," she said.

However, "ideological positions on gas can get in the way" she warned the panel.

Catch up on the full discussion here.