Welcome to the 3rd episode of the IdeaSpies Editor Series in partnership with the A Spanner in the Works Disruption Podcast. I'm Lynn Wood, the Founder and Chief Idea Spy of IdeaSpies.
Jeremy Wright AM, IdeaSpies Climate Editor, will give you a passionate update on Climate Change Challenges and how they should be addressed.
You can see Climate ideas, explained simply, on the IdeaSpies platform https://ideaspies.com/sort/Climate
I could start by suggesting that the climate crisis we're in and the phenomenon of global warming needs innovation, and it does, but not the sort of innovation that first comes to mind, technological innovation, because that's largely with us already. And it can take us to between 70% and 75% of the needed goal of net zero by 2035. Note that date – 2035, not 2050.
The innovations we really need urgently are in our financial, governance and legal systems. That's happening now, but not nearly quickly enough. We need major disruption in these systems urgently to be able to retain the planet as a viable ecosystem.
By the way, I'm not a scientist or a climate change expert, but I have been an observer and a journalist on and off since the 1970s. That's when the Club of Rome first published Limits to Growth. From 2020 I've chaired a series of Climate and Peace webinars, with many Australians and international experts presenting, and I'm happy to plagiarize their expertise. Back to the 70’s .That’s when we started recognizing what's now called planetary boundaries. This is thanks to an Australian Professor Will Steffen and a bevy of IPCC scientists.
These boundaries were first thought to be population and food related. The threat then became the ozone layer in the 1990s, which by the way, our Bob Hawke, helped broker a solution to. Now it is realized that it has to do with carbon overload, proliferation of plastics and the destruction of our biodiversity. So we're not just talking about global warming, We have three parallel existential planetary threats. These threats may limit the planet's medium term capacity to maintain an adequate life support system for us. However, a much more urgent concern is that these threats may cause tipping points. And I'm sure you've heard about these points of no return, from where we cannot recover regardless of our technology.
To remind us that it's urgent - witness, just this week, a 40 degree jump in temperatures in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. And another mass bleaching event in the Barrier Reef. The science, as well as Mother Earth, is already telling us that we must aim for 2035 for net zero emissions, which means we either orchestrate a revolution, or we will experience disasters that we don't recover from. Sounds dire. But funnily enough, I'm an optimist. And I'm an optimist, partly because the technology solutions are already with us. But they're just not being used.
We can replace fossil fuel energy now, with demonstrably cheaper solar wind, hydro, tidal and battery technology for every phase of our lives. And that includes most of our transport and our industry, worldwide. We can include, soon to be cheaper green hydrogen, supported by new systems such as the circular economies that have now been employed commercially. We can also address agricultural emissions with a range of new practices, and food innovations and composting. We know that halting deforestation in all its forms will help enormously. We already pay carbon credits for that, even in Australia. And we know how to revolutionize packaging and fabric use to address the plastics issue. And we can evaluate and address the high priority biodiversity issues that have to be addressed to make the world sustainable. However, we are nowhere near the required utilization of these innovations to call them solutions.
And some of the touted solutions in this area of climate are truly dodgy solutions, in particular carbon capture and storage, dirty hydrogen and fraudulent carbon credits. These are three innovations that have been promoted to prolong fossil fuel use, and are therefore self-defeating.
So it leads to several questions. What's stopping us from employing all the good innovations and technology that could save the world? What are the barriers? And the next question, what innovations do we really need to disrupt these barriers to actually break through and have the revolution that's required?
I believe there are two big barriers. The first is what I’ll call “Even more immediate Priorities” – Priorities that we want to WIN over like COVID and CANCER and WAR and the ECONOMY - and there's definitely a masculine gender mindset in this. Recent studies suggest sustainability is much more of a female construct and concept. And we are talking about recreating some harmony with Mother Earth. That might lead to one big solution and that is having more women in powerful positions. And I'm sure you'll agree that will be a big innovation.
The second major barrier is vested interests, the sort of vested interests that encourages our Prime Minister for instance, to state recently that we should be sweating our coal assets to the end of their natural life. In other words, saving that industry in particular, in the face of the much greater threats to the common good, and to our planetary future.
Clearly, the fossil fuel industries worldwide, have a tight grip and influence to stop change and they create barriers. So should we challenge them? Let me let me challenge all of us - if we make a comparison with Mr. Putin and Russia who are currently creating a mass migration out of the Ukraine, maybe 4 million people. So let's take a very low estimate of mass migrations caused by climate change predicted in Bangladesh only, and it will be 10 times greater. in the rest of the world mass migrations might be 50 to 100 times greater than what's happening in Ukraine. Is that obvious yet? Well, yes, it is already happening in the Ganges Delta, in Jakarta, in Bangkok, in Florida, in the Pacific in the Bahamas, where flooding is well and truly underway. And on top of that, we will generate widespread migration, if food systems collapse. That's what we know the vested fossil fuel industry will continue to cause so should we protest against them more than Mr. Putin? I'd like to say yes, but even at this stage, our protests will be ignored.
So what social, financial and governance innovations can we use very quickly. What can we do to break these barriers? How do we change the system in the meantime? I think there are a number of innovations we really need.
We need innovations that take climate action out of the political arena- like the UK Committee on Climate Change, a statutory body that addresses the UK Government from both sides of politics on climate policy. We need innovations like the EU's concept of carbon tariffs which a number of other countries around the world will adopt and we need to develop a worldwide carbon pricing mechanism. You might call it a carbon tax, but it's a whole lot cheaper than the cost of disaster aid that we will have to pay later.
Radical transition partnerships between unions and industry are also happening, most notably in Germany and Spain, also in the EU and OPEC, and even in India, to manage transition strategies for workers on a broad country-wide scale. That's the sort of innovation we need.
And finally, let me come back to my other point, putting more women in powerful positions, more like Angela Merkel, Christiana Figueres, Helen Clark, Greta Thunburg and of course, Kamala Harris.
These innovators will address the short-term mindedness of many of our largely male world leaders.
So how about challenging vested interests. If we look to what was done to reform the slave trade in the nineteenth century, the British government had to pay out many of the main slave traders. And that's just what Bloomberg and a couple of other rich people are trying to do now with the Asian Development Bank and European interests, to cut out coal-fired power stations, one at a time, aiming to eliminate a quarter of coal-fired power plants by 2025.
And in Australia, we saw Mike Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian, with Brookfield, trying to buy out AGL. That will continue for sure, but it's going to slowly at this stage. That needs to ramp up.
Another needed innovation is stopping the flow of investment to fossil fuel interests. That's happening with Norway's sovereign investment fund. Also with Japan and South Korea's major funds. Even China has indicated it will stop funding coal fired stations outside China. They are also talking about decommissioning many of their coal-fired power plants in advance of normal life cycles. Watch this space. And even Larry Fisk of Blackrock, the world's largest private investment fund, said we have to “decarbonize or die” in his most recent newsletter. So the funds are drying up for the vested interests.
Then there are the increasing governance constraints over private industry, but most notably in the EU, with a range of carrots and sticks in place across many industries, including agriculture, to completely turn around and reduce their emissions. And in a significant announcement this week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced strict rules on ‘climate reporting’ from private industry that will come into play in 2023. That's very significant.
Meanwhile,, in the world’s courts, and in the world company shareholder groups, there are rulings against fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron. They were all hit with constraints on their future fossil fuel operations.
However, in many developed and developing countries, clearly the governments are captured by fossil fuel oligarchs. So we will have to rely on rapidly developing these many social, financial and governance innovations and mechanisms if we are going to survive.
And let's hope we do have another Bob Hawke who helped the world to stop the use of chlorofluorocarbons and saved the ozone layer. And as I'm a betting man, if we do find several world leaders, real leaders, real saviours of this world - if it does happen - the group will probably include several very clever women.