Australia is shaping up to be the villain of COP26 talks in Glasgow – CNN #ClimateCrisis #auspol #qldpol demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDG7 #Act4SDGs

If Australia’s allies were worried that the country might cause them problems at upcoming climate talks in Glasgow, the past week of events should leave little doubt in their minds. It will.

Analysis by Angela Dewan, International Climate Editor, CNN

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday all but confirmed a report that his country had pressured the UK into dropping key climate commitments from their bilateral trade agreement, showing no sign of regret or embarrassment at being caught out. 
And on Monday last week, when a senior UN official warned Australia’s climate inaction would eventually “wreak havoc” on its economy, Australia’s resources minister, Keith Pitt, dismissed the UN as a “foreign body” that should mind its own business. He even bragged about Australia’s plans to keep mining coal “well beyond 2030,” while much of the developed world is already well on its way to phasing out the fossil fuel.
Australia is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world with its obstinate approach to the climate crisis. Leaders like US climate envoy John Kerry and COP26 President Alok Sharma have been focused recently on the climate challenge of China — but it’s Australia that’s emerging as the real pariah of the COP26 talks.

“Of all the developed countries, Australia has the poorest standing on climate. It’s clear that Australia will just be absent, basically, from the talks,” Bas Eickhout, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, told CNN.

“They were quite happy with the role the United States played until last year, and now of course they seem to be the last-man standing from the Western countries to block progress,” he said, referring to the US’ absence in global climate efforts during the Trump years.

The UK has also come under criticism for bowing to Australia in the countries’ bilateral trade agreement, in which an explicit reference to containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius appears to have been taken off the table. But a British official close to the negotiations in the lead-up to COP26 said that the UK had otherwise been consistent in its messaging to the Australian government to take the crisis more seriously.

Part of that messaging included denying Morrison a slot to speak at the Climate Ambition Summit in December last year, an event organized by the UK’s COP26 presidency, the UN and France.

More than 70 leaders attended and spoke, and many announced improved emission-cutting pledges, known as a Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Australia had no new NDC to announce, and it still doesn’t, having missed a July 31 deadline mandated by the Paris Agreement.

“Last December, we had a little bit more run time, so we were holding the bar very, very high, and you really had to earn your stripes to be able to speak,” the UK official said.

“They’re a developed country, they’ve got huge amount of capacity, and they’re being devastated by climate change, quite frankly, and we’ve been pretty strict on that. They haven’t come forward with a long-term strategy.”

There are growing concerns among some delegates that Australia could stifle progress at COP26 talks in key areas. Sharma, who is also a British MP, has said he wants the world to put an end date on coal at the conference and to push for countries to refocus their commitments to containing global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The Paris Agreement obliged signatories to try to contain temperatures to 2 degrees, with a preference for closer to 1.5 degrees, but there has been a growing acceptance among many governments that the world should be aiming for 1.5. Scientists see 2 degrees as a critical threshold for many of the Earth’s ecosystems.

But the comments in the past week from Australia’s leaders suggest they will push back on both coal and 1.5. 

“We should increase the pressure on partners like Australia,” Peter Liese, an EU member of Parliament from Germany, told CNN. He added he would be raising the “challenge” of Australia’s climate inaction in the European Parliament as a problem.

He also said the logic behind Australia’s policy was difficult to understand.

“There’s a general hesitancy in Australia to commit to ambitious climate targets, and that’s quite embarrassing for that country because they suffer already from climate change.”

Australia experienced devastating wildfires in 2019-20, events that scientists said were made more likely by human-induced climate change.
The recent UN state-of-the science climate report found that Australia is already experiencing more heat extremes and higher sea level rises than the global average because of climate change. Heat, sea level rise and drought are all projected to increase in Australia the more the Earth warms.

Australia trails China on net zero

Australia has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2030, from 2005 levels, a commitment that sits well below those made by the United States, European Union and United Kingdom, among other developed nations.

US President Joe Biden, for example, increased his country’s pledge in April to reduce emissions by 50% to 52% in the same time frame.

The Australian Climate Council, which is independent of the government, has suggested the country should slash emissions by 75% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, to do its part in containing global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Instead of focusing on immediate emissions reductions, the government has framed its climate response around “tech not taxes,” saying essentially it will transition to renewables when it becomes cheaper to do so. 

“Removing the green premium — the price difference between current technologies and low emissions solutions — is the key to widespread global adoption and will make net zero achievable for all countries,” the Australian Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER), which oversees climate policy, said in a statement to CNN on Monday.

It reiterated its plans to continue to export coal to nations that are still developing, including China, India and South Korea. “Australia has an important role to play in meeting that demand,” it added. 

The Australian government in December last year technically “updated” its NDC, as it was obliged to do by the Paris Agreement before a July 31 deadline, but it did not actually increase its target to cut emissions. The point of the deadline was for countries to raise their climate ambitions. 

DISER told CNN it would release a long-term strategy on climate ahead of COP26. “Australia will spell out its position in due course,” it said. 

The country’s current pledges do not even put it on track to meet the requirements to keep global warming within 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5, according to Climate Action Tracker, a group that monitors climate policies around the world.

The watchdog said that if the whole world followed Australia’s policies, temperatures would rise by between 2 and 3 degrees.

And while Australia says achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century would be preferable, it’s one of the only developed nations that hasn’t actually committed to it. Even China, widely seen as a roadblock to international climate progress, has pledged carbon neutrality by 2060. 

A spokesperson for the European Union told CNN that the bloc hoped “Australia’s ambition to reach net zero ‘as soon as possible’ can be turned into a 2050 net zero target.”

Powerful fossil fuel lobbying

Part of what’s holding Australia back is the power that fossil fuel companies wield in the country. Australia is the world’s second-biggest coal exporter, after Indonesia.

According to Pitt, the Australian resources minister, coal brought in around $50 billion in exports and more than $3 billion in royalties last financial year, and provides direct jobs for over 50,000 Australians, and supports the jobs of many more.
More than 60% of the country’s electricity was generated by coal last year. In the UK, it was 1.6% in 2020.

A shift to renewables in Australia has begun, but it’s been slow. 

Just 9% of the country’s electricity comes from the sun. Australia has the highest amount of solar radiation per square meter of land than any other continent.

DISER said that there had been successful “structural changes” to the electricity sector, which has seen a reduction in emissions of 22.5% since it peaked in 2007.

Meanwhile, as the UK, US and EU are designing “green recoveries” from the Covid-19 pandemic — boosting the use of renewables, like wind and solar energy, and setting targets to transition to electric cars — Australia’s plans center on increasing its exploration and use of natural gas, a fossil fuel that contributes to climate change. It “strategy” for electric vehicles doesn’t involve any subsidies or put an end date on combustion engine cars.

A report published on Thursday by the climate think tank InfluenceMap showed that fossil fuel companies are exerting a strong influence over Australian climate policy through well-funded lobbying, and that Australian businesses that are more vocally climate friendly are less engaged in lobbying the government in practice.

“The direction that the Australian government is taking — for example its recent trade negotiations with the UK — isn’t coming out of a vacuum,” InfluenceMap director Ed Collins told CNN.

“When it comes to lobbying for Paris-aligned climate policy, corporate Australia is largely missing in action.”

Collins said that Australia was a clear outlier from its peers in this dynamic. In the United States and Europe, for example, there are big companies actively pushing the government on climate policy.

“In Australia, that’s not the case — it’s missing those strategically engaged, pro-climate corporate voices.”

It appears that lobbying fossil fuel companies have hijacked climate policy from the Australian people. Most Australians support more climate action from the government, according to a poll by the Lowy Institute in May.

The poll found that 78% of Australians would support a net zero emissions target for 2050. Around the same number support the government subsidizing electric vehicles. And 63% support a ban on new coal mines opening in Australia. Yet of the world’s 176 new coal projects, 79 of them are in Australia, according to Fitch Solutions’ Global Mines Database.

The real lobbying to government for improved climate policy is left largely to activist groups. 

Lucy Manne, the CEO of, which is an international organization with an Australian presence, accused the Morrison government of deliberately slowing down climate progress.

“This is extremely frustrating, and the government will only see the movement calling for action grow,” she said.

“The Morrison government risks Australia becoming not just a pariah state on the world stage, but also our economy falling behind. Australia has the potential to become a clean energy superpower and exporter, and the Australian public wants us to be a leader, not a laggard.”

CNN’s Helen Regan contributed to this report.

— Read on

California drought driving up greenhouse gas emissions: study | TheHill #ClimateCrisis demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDG7 #FundOurFutureNotGas #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol #Act4SDGs #SDGS Sustainable Development Goals


Drought in California, coupled with population growth, is accelerating the need for energy-intensive water projects — driving up greenhouse gas emissions and thwarting the pace of statewide decarbonization efforts, a new study has found. 

Water use, collection, treatment and management is linked to about 20 percent of California’s statewide electricity use, one-third of non-power-plant natural gas consumption and 88 billion gallons of diesel use, according to the study, published by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute and commissioned by the nonprofit think tank Next 10.

Up against formidable water challenges, urban water planners are opting to integrate new water supply technologies, like desalination and water recycling, the researchers observed. And while these supply choices usually require less energy than transporting water long distances, the authors said that these facilities do expend more energy than withdrawing from traditional resources, like reservoirs and aquifers.

“If you think about water and energy together, then some of the decisions we make will be different,” Peter Gleick, co-founder and president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, told The Hill. “Given the climate crisis, it’s important we make smarter decisions about both water and energy.”

Water and energy are “inextricably linked in California,” according to the authors, who stressed that the State Water Project — which pumps water from Northern California lengthy distances — is the single largest consumer of electricity in the state. Such interdependencies mean that “as one resource faces constraints or challenges, so does the other,” in a relationship known as the “water-energy nexus.”

Although declining groundwater levels have made pumping water more energy-intensive in the agricultural sector, the report found that escalating urban water demands are taking a greater toll on the state’s electricity usage — with urban water roughly twice as energy-intensive as agricultural water. 

As such, efforts to improve efficiency in urban water usage would have the biggest impact on California’s water-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to the authors. A failure to make such upgrades would lead to a 24 percent increase in urban water demand between 2015 and 2035, resulting in a 21 percent increase in annual water-related electricity use and a 25 percent increase in natural gas consumption, the study found.


The future could be awesome. Solving climate change and improving everyone’s lives in the bargain is possible. But so far it has proven politically impossible. Our climate policies and Green New Deals are frankly not enough to hit the 2030 targets that science tells us are necessary. We will likely lose all the coral reefs, suffer intolerable ocean acidification, and set in place carbon feedbacks such as methane emissions from melting tundra, if we allow the planet to warm any more.

America can utilize its fabulous natural resources to provide abundant zero-carbon energy to all its citizens. Energy will cost less than ever before, and new jobs will be created in every zip code. We’ll enjoy cleaner air and water, rejuvenated agriculture and better food. Once America is on the path to zero emissions it will thrive by exporting technology and know-how to the rest of the world. 


“When we save water, we also save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Julia Szinai, lead author of the report and a researcher at the Pacific Institute, said in a news release. “The importance of water conservation measures in meeting California’s climate targets should not be underestimated, especially as drought and water scarcity become more intense with climate change.”

So critical are these measures, according to the authors, that the implementation of comprehensive water conservation and efficiency strategies could facilitate a 19 percent reduction in water-related electricity usage between 2015 and 2035, a 16 percent reduction in natural gas usage and a 41 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The good news here is the solutions that provide the best climate outcomes are almost always economically and environmentally the best solutions as well,” Gleick told The Hill. 

Some such solutions that the authors recommended include water heater electrification, which is the most energy-intensive end-use of water and still largely occurs through natural gas heaters today. 

They also advised installing higher efficiency groundwater pumps and providing financial incentives for water suppliers to invest in less energy-intensive systems. In addition, they suggested standardizing water data reporting and tracking related energy use, as well as formalizing the coordination between water and energy agencies. 

Another energy-intensive end use, wastewater treatment — which uses nearly 1 percent of the entire country’s electricity — could become cleaner by capturing gas from the decomposition of waste and using it to power the facility, the authors added. The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s treatment plant, for example, generates more renewable energy than is needed onsite, and therefore sells the surplus back to the grid. 

If energy-intensive technologies like water recycling or desalination are to remain part of a region’s water supply landscape, officials must work on decarbonizing the grid — with the ultimate goal of “changing the energy system itself” alongside strong conservation policies, according to Gleick.  

“Almost everywhere around the country smarter conservation and efficiency is by far the best option to pursue,” he said. “Every gallon of hot water you don’t have to use because your washing machine or dishwasher is more efficient is a gallon of water you don’t have to provide and energy you don’t have to provide.”

— Read on

Frequent Disasters Are Making People Anxious About Climate Change : NPR #auspol #qldpol #ClimateCrisis Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #SDG7 #StopAdani #FundOurFutureNotGas @Westpac @CommBank

With so many disasters happening so frequently, many people are feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. Reflecting on what you can do personally to combat climate change may help, a psychiatrist says.


Through fires and hurricanes, through lethal heat waves and flash floods, the world seems to be ending — or at least, that’s what it feels like.

All around us, we’re seeing the effects of climate change. Wildfires are raging through the West. Much of southeast Louisiana was flattened by Hurricane Ida, and parts of New York and New Jersey are digging out from disastrous flooding. 

And if it seems like natural disasters are happening more and more often, that’s because they are: Climate change has helped drive a fivefold increase in the number of weather-related disasters in the last 50 years. Climate change means disasters are happening simultaneously, too. 

These disasters are getting more severe, too. Weather records are being broken thanks to climate change turning previously impossible occurrences into startling realities.

As a result, many people are dealing with what’s commonly referred to as “eco grief,” a type of mental exhaustion that stems from accepting the harsh realities of climate change and feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. Added to that is “disaster fatigue,” another type of emotional tiredness that comes from dealing with an abundance of bad news and steadily occurring crises — like near-constant headlines of devastating disasters.

Jeffrey Garcia, an engineer living in Glen Burnie, Md., has grown up with an awareness of ecological problems thanks to a childhood spent in Albuquerque, N.M., where drought is a persistent specter, he said. Today, he, like many others, is still troubled by what he sees as “cascading issues” and while he understands the nuance — the world isn’t going to immediately burn down — there’s still a persistent sense of dread, he explained to NPR. One that he tries to combat with knowledge and action.

“The voice of anxiety feeds on exaggeration and hyperbole. And while it is easy to feel that flash of fear … there’s over 7 billion people on this planet that all have a vested interest in [the worst] not happening,” he said.

Still, the instability of that future has led Garcia and his wife to reconsiderwhether to have children. 

It’s a sentiment that he’s not alone in; Katie Oran, a 25-year-old wildfire planner working in Sacramento, Calif., feels much the same way.

“I think almost every single one of my friends, none of us want to have children,” Oran said. “Just because thinking about bringing children into an uncertain future doesn’t necessarily seem fair. We talk a lot about where we should move, where is safe … I don’t really know if anywhere is safe [though].”

The string of disasters is making us anxious

If you’re worried about the environment, you aren’t alone. A poll conducted by the American Psychiatric Association last year showed that nearly 70% of adults in the country are at least somewhat anxious about what climate change will do to the planet, and slightly more than half are worried about what toll that will take on their mental health. 

“We are burned out and our resilience is really down,” Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist, author and environmental activist, told NPR. “It’s making us raw to all of these new challenges that we face. They’re coming too fast, too furious, and too many.”

An unfortunate side effect of being informed are the emotions, like helplessness, that come alongside that knowledge. Some, like members of a climate change support group in Salt Lake City, deal with those feelings by banding together. But it’s harder for people like Oran, whose jobs give them a front-row seat to the worst of what’s happening to the planet.

It’s scary, Oran said, not knowing exactly what will come next. 

“There’s a lot of unknowns about how already-occurring natural disasters will get worse, whether it’s flooding or hurricanes, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and so I think that with the unknowns and uncertainty, it’s difficult to plan for the future,” she said. “And I think that we can work as hard as we can to retrofit homes and to build with non-combustible materials and to create defensible space around homes. But fire will come.”

This is the last possible moment in history when changing course can mean saving lives and species on an unimaginable scale. It’s too late for moderation. 

Our climate is in a crisis. 2019 saw atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases hit the highest level ever recorded in human history, and our window of opportunity to avoid disaster is quickly closing. In the autumn of 2019, frustrated with the obvious inaction of politicians and inspired by contemporary activists, Jane Fonda moved to Washington, DC to lead weekly climate change demonstrations on Capitol Hill. On October 11, she launched Fire Drill Fridays (FDF), and has since led thousands of people in non-violent civil disobedience, risking arrest to protest for action. 

In What Can I Do?, Fonda’s deeply personal journey as an activist is weaved alongside interviews with leading climate scientists, and discussions of issues, such as water, migration, and human rights, to emphasise what is at stake. Throughout, Fonda provides concrete solutions and actions that everybody can take in order to combat the climate crisis in their community. 

What Can I Do?

Taking action may be the answer — not just for the planet but for your mind

Worsening mental health amid ongoing disasters is something that’s on the radar for mental health providers, too, Van Susteren says.

“We know that if we don’t tend to what people are feeling, that they will turn inward on this and they will find themselves increasingly alone and under siege themselves internally,” she said. “I’ve said as bad as the storms are outside, the storms inside are even worse.”

The effects of climate change that we’re seeing are already mentally draining (and for many who live in affected areas, directly damaging), but unfortunately, experiencing these natural disasters amid an ongoing global pandemic is exacerbating the situation. As Van Susteren explained, “The pandemic has made us more raw.” 

As with any mental health problem, seeking professional support is encouraged whenever possible. Thankfully, there are therapists who specialize in climate anxiety, who can be found on directories — like this one — listing “climate-aware” mental health professionals.

Another solution? Action, however small, is a good way to start. Van Susteren suggests focusing on the three P’s: personal, professional and political. Reflecting on what you can do personally to combat climate change can mean examining your own carbon footprint and ways to lessen it. Professionally, you can connect with those you work with to raise awareness and make changes at your workplace. And finally, there’s always work to be done politically.

“That means that we’re all now charged with being enlightened citizens who can change leadership,” Susteren explained. “Someone wise once said when the people lead, the leaders will follow. We need to make sure that elected officials who understand what we’re up against are writing policy that reflects it.”

Even in the midst of what feels like a burning world, there’s always something you can do.

— Read on

2,185 scientists and academics call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty — #ClimateCrisis #ClimateAction #FundOurFutureNotGas #StopAdani @HSBC @jpmorgan @blackrock @NAB #auspol #qldpol #Divest

2,185 scientists and academics call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty —

On the eve of the United Nations General Assembly, thousands of academics urge governments to negotiate an international treaty that tackles the climate crisis at its source: fossil fuels.

13 September – Over two thousand academics across disciplines and from 81 countries have delivered a letter demanding a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to manage a global phase out of coal, oil and gas to governments gathering at tomorrow’s UN General Assembly. 

In the open letter, the academics recognize that the burning of coal, oil and gas is the greatest contributor to climate change – responsible for almost 80% of carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. Furthermore, they note that, “air pollution caused by fossil fuels was responsible for almost 1 in 5 deaths worldwide in 2018”.

Politicians say one thing and do another

Despite this, national governments, including the COP26 hosts themselves, plan to expand fossil fuel production at levels that would result in around 120 percent more emissions than what is in keeping with the Paris Agreement target of 1.5ºC of warming.

Signatory Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, President of the Club of Rome, said: “The only way we will meet our Paris Agreement goals and transition to a net zero economy is by pulling out of fossil fuels now. We no longer have time to lose.”

Signatory Lesley Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Biology, Macquarie University and Councillor for the Climate Council, said: “Every fraction of a degree of warming is doing us harm. This means that every day we delay cessation of fossil fuel burning, we come closer to catastrophe”.”

The letter comes on the heels of last month’s IPCC report, which was heralded as a “death knell” for the fossil fuel industry by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres and revealed that 86% of CO2 emissions in the last decade are from the burning of fossil fuels.

Signatory Michael E Mann, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University, added “it’s time to bring an end to the age of fossil fuels”. 

Signatory Peter Kalmus, NASA Climate Scientist, noted that “this is a global emergency so it requires global coordination to quickly eliminate the immediate cause: deadly fossil fuels”. The proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is critically needed to facilitate the international cooperation required to manage a fair and fast global transition away from coal, oil and gas. 

The letter states: “Given the significant historical contribution of fossil fuels to climate change, and the industry’s continuing expansion plans, we are calling for a solution commensurate with the scale of the problem.”

“Phasing down coal, oil and gas in line with 1.5ºC requires global cooperation, in a way that is fair, equitable and reflects countries’ levels of dependence on fossil fuels, and capacities to transition. This, in turn, should be underpinned by financial resources, including technology transfer, to enable a just transition for workers and communities in developing countries and a decent life for all.”

The open letter outlines the academics’ call to world leaders to initiate a new chapter of international cooperation on climate change via a mechanism to compliment the Paris Agreement that would:

  • End new expansion of fossil fuel production in line with the best available science as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environment Programme

  • Phase out existing production of fossil fuels in a manner that is fair and equitable, taking into account the respective dependency of countries on fossil fuels, and their capacity to transition;

  • Invest in a transformational plan to ensure 100% access to renewable energy globally, support fossil fuel-dependent economies to diversify away from fossil fuels, and enable people and communities across the globe to flourish through a global just transition.

Rebecca Byrnes, Deputy Director of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative said: “The world’s leading scientists could not be clearer – coal, oil and gas are the primary cause of the climate crisis and are responsible for nearly one in every five deaths worldwide. Any ‘net zero’ policy that allows for the continued expansion of these weapons of mass destruction is insufficient. Just as governments came together to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals, or end the proliferation of nuclear weapons, they must now urgently negotiate a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

The 2,185 academics join a growing number of voices calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty globally. Recently, the Dalai Lama and 100 other Nobel Laureates called on world leaders to end fossil fuel expansion as part of the global campaign backed by more than 700 civil society organizations.

The full letter and list of signatories is available at

About the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is spurring international cooperation to end new development of fossil fuels, phase out existing production within the agreed climate limit of 1.5°C and develop plans to support workers, communities and countries dependent on fossil fuels to create secure and healthy livelihoods. Cities such as Vancouver and Barcelona have already endorsed the Treaty with more considering motions to endorse. Hundreds of organizations representing thousands more individuals join the call for world leaders to stop fossil fuel expansion. 

For more information on the Initiative, please visit the website, explore our Campaign Hub and view the introduction video.

— Read on

Climate change has become major security threat: Defence expert #ClimateCrisis #auspol #qldpol #CodeRed #FundOurFutureNotGas #StopAdani @HSBC @blackrock @jpmorgan @NAB @Westpac

Climate change will create wars on Australia’s doorstep and a global refugee crisis, according to a former director of the Department of Defence who is calling on the country to address global warming as a security threat.

BY Cait Kelly 

Cheryl Durrant, a specialist in intelligence analysis and scenario planning during her military career who is now an academic and councillor with the Climate Council, said if climate change continues unmitigated Australia may be dragged into war.

“What drives conflict is resource insecurity. We’ve seen this in the Syrian conflict, in which climate change was partly a driver,” Ms Durrant told The New Daily. 

Her warning comes as a new report from the Climate Council reveals Australia has fallen well behind the US, UK, Japan and New Zealand in its analysis of climate and security risks.

We are unprepared and completely blind to the threats on the horizon and accelerating them by backing fossil fuels, Ms Durrant said.

“Australia’s unwillingness to deal with climate change is already affecting our security, leading to a loss of geopolitical influence, particularly in the Pacific,” she said.

Climate change could cause chaos in the Asia-Pacific region, as several countries, including Australia “will be severely impacted by extreme weather events”.

Climate change a security threat

Australia was falling behind other nations in integrating climate policy with national security, the report found.

In the worst-case scenario, climate change plunges the Asia-Pacific region into conflicts over water and other essential resources, it states.

“A worst case might see conflict involving India and Pakistan drawing in the US or China. Any US-China conflict could escalate into a major war, which Australia could also be drawn into through its alliance mechanisms with the US or India,” the report reads.

Conflict paired with rising sea levels could create a refugee crisis so large that Australia’s ‘stop the boats’ policy will be rendered insufficient, Ms Durrant said.

“If countries to the north fail, I think we’ll see the refugee crisis, not in the hundreds but potentially, a much larger number,” she said.

Several countries close to Australia, including Pacific Island nations as well as Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia, face significant threats from sea level rise, which is likely to increase displacement and forced migration.

“We could work with PNG and Indonesia in resilience or we could choose to say, those places are not ours, we’re happy to let them collapse, but then you have to deal with mass refugee flows,” the report read.

‘Canary in the coal mine’

The dominance of certain countries in the supply chain of essential goods, such as China, South Korea and Japan, makes the risk of conflict even more concerning for Australia.

“COVID is the canary in the coal mine,” Ms Durrant said.

“We’re a trading nation. We rely on trade for economic wellbeing, so if those countries are under stress and focusing on survival, that’s going to have an impact on us as well.”

To address the root cause of climate-fuelled insecurity, the science is clear that Australia should reduce its emissions by 75 per cent (below 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2035, Ms Durrant said.

“We expect in Australia that we spend money to mitigate risk. It’s really an act of negligence if we don’t,” she said.

“We can do that by shifting from fossil fuel exports to clean exports and making smart use of development assistance.”

Robert Glasser, head of the Climate and Security Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said climate hazards in south-east Asia could affect Australia’s security even more than the domestic impacts of climate change.

Rising sea level will be tomorrow’s global economic and humanitarian crisis–if we don’t start adapting now. Around the world, rising sea level threatens coastal communities. It is unstoppable, requiring bold planning to avoid catastrophe. Though often seen as an environmental issue, it’s more about our security and economy–and the impacts on our homes and communities. In his previous book, the bestselling High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis, renowned oceanographer John Englander clearly explained the science.

In Moving to Higher Ground: Rising Sea Level and the Path Forward, he updates the latest scientific information and presents a visionary outlook for what we need to do–showing the world how to survive, and even thrive, for ourselves and future generations.

Englander explains: -Why sea level will rise regardless of efforts to reduce CO2 emissions -How high the sea could rise in the coming decades and the effects on assets and infrastructure -What you need to know to prepare and adapt for long-term sea level rise and short term flooding events -Why rising sea level and the massive adaptation required could be the greatest economic engine of this century.

Moving to Higher Ground

“In Maritime Southeast Asia, 400 million people live in low-lying island states, the majority of them in Indonesia,” Mr Glasser said.

Sea level rise is happening four times faster than the global average in Maritime Southeast Asia.

“What is currently a one-in-100-year extreme flooding event will become an annual event within little more than a decade in many parts of the region,” Mr Glasser said.

“This could have profound consequences for Australia.”

— Read on

Media’s climate blind spot #ClimateCrisis Imagine if climate change had the same media coverage as #Covid we might see #ClimateAction #SDG13 #TellTheTruth


On Aug. 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane.

Sixteen years later to the day, Hurricane Ida, also a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching up to 145 miles per hour, made landfall in the same city and state battered by Katrina. The devastation from Ida will likely not reach the same heights as Katrina in Louisiana, where, nearly two decades later, people are still recovering from the cataclysmic storm which claimed 1,577 lives in their state alone.

Still, the impact of Hurricane Ida was immense up and down the East Coast. In New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut — four of the states hit hardest in the Northeast — the death toll stands at 46.

Hurricane Ida was just one of many extreme weather events that occurred this summer throughout the country. An analysis by The Washington Post found that in this summer alone, one in three Americans experienced some form of major weather disaster. It seemed that at any point in time throughout the summer, one major section of the country was either on fire, underwater or in a drought.

The news media devoted extensive coverage to all of these events throughout the summer. For Hurricane Ida alone, a combined 774 segments were aired by TV news networks, according to the watchdog group Media Matters.

Extreme weather has always been big business for news networks, which have a predictable playbook covering these events. They send out correspondents wearing network-branded jackets to stand in front of scenes of chaos and yell over the wind into their microphones. High-tech CGI imagery of spinning storm clouds is often rolled out by graphics teams.

However, missing from this playbook, oftentimes, is the discussion of climate change.

Analysis from the aforementioned Media Matters reports among news segments devoted to the hurricane, only 4% made some reference to climate change. Across different platforms, this broke down to five mentions of climate change on network news broadcasts and 29 references on cable television.

Despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that today’s superpowered hurricanes are a product of warming oceans due to man-made climate change, the American mainstream media seemingly will not point out this association to audiences.

It’s hard to understand or offer explanations for why the news media has decided, en masse, to exclude a key component of a major news story.

But there has to be some reasoning for this, right? This kind of widespread editorial decision-making doesn’t happen by accident. There has to be some calculation informing this.

It could be that the news media imagines that most Americans already understand the link between climate change and superpowered storms. If this is their assumption, it’s false. In a 2019 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 38% of Americans were reported to believe that climate change was not significantly impacting their community. This indicates a large portion of the population still sees climate change as a distant threat, or a nonexistent one.

The more cynical reasoning, and sadly the likeliest one, is that the media has made this decision out of commercial interests.

This can be illustrated by a 2018 incident wherein MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes responded to a tweet from freelance writer, Elon Green, who had called out Hayes on the mainstream media’s lack of coverage surrounding climate change. Hayes responded, “almost without exception, every single time we’ve covered [climate change] it’s been a palpable ratings killer. [S]o the incentives are not great.”

While the tweets of one cable news anchor don’t mirror the views of the executives at every network, the sentiment is likely somewhat representative of the larger issue at play. Reporting on topics like climate change that are complex and scientific is always going to be a harder sell than tabloid or political issues.

The main purpose of most television news, like everything on TV, is to make money. In the media’s calculus, giving airtime to a climate scientist is far less commercially sound than showing a clip of an anti-masker freaking out in a grocery store.

However, when viewed through a political lens, climate change can become more palatable for news networks. This same principle carries over into several different news stories. It’s not commercially viable until it’s controversial, and until it’s commercially viable, television media has limited interest in covering it.

Taking a look at nonprofit news outlets — like NPR, PBS, and The Guardian — you’ll find higher amounts of reporting on climate change. Perhaps the answer is to move towards deemphasizing the role of television and for-profit media when it comes to the issues that matter most. Until news networks begin to reprioritize important issues over commercial interests, we are unlikely to see much change in this area.

What would it take for antivaxxers and climate science deniers to ‘wake up’? | Clive Hamilton | The Guardian #auspol #qldpol

Facts are puny against the carapace of denial when people’s sense of self is at stake. However, in the case of Covid deniers, imminent death seems to do the trick.

By Clive Hamilton

In 1927, an article in the venerable medical journal the Lancet commented on the opposition to smallpox vaccination in terms that have an eerie resonance today.

“We still meet the belief … that vaccination is a gigantic fraud deliberately perpetuated for the sake of gain … The opposition to vaccination … like many emotional reactions, is supported by a wealth of argument which the person reacting honestly believes to be the logical foundation of his behaviour.”

When I first read this, I was researching climate science denial. But it fits the fervent beliefs of Covid deniers and antivaxxers just as well.

Prone to “conspiracist ideation”, many anti-vaccination activists appear to believe Covid-19 is a hoax. They dismiss experts as frauds lining their pockets, refuse to accept any evidence that contradicts their beliefs, and create their own world of self-reinforcing truth.

Antivaxxers seize on an occasional dissenting study and exploit it for all it’s worth even after it has been discredited. A one in a million chance of an adverse effect is confirmation of everything they’ve been saying, even though many medical interventions (like taking the pill) have higher risks. A single anecdote is enough to invalidate a mountain of carefully collected scientific evidence.

In the same way, climate science deniers seize on an unseasonable snowstorm or a year that bucks the warming trend as vindication. One dissenting study, even if invalidated, is enough to disprove an entire IPCC report.

Antivaxxers spread theories about sinister cover-ups, information suppression and conspiracies among medical experts. They claim to be protecting our freedom and talk darkly about the government trying to take away our liberty, portraying themselves as Davids bravely fighting Goliath.

Climate deniers make comparable claims, and not just in the wilder recesses of the blogosphere. The Australian newspaper has for years published former Tony Abbott adviser and business council chief Maurice Newman. There is of course no claim Newman is an anti-vaxxer but he has repeated claims that climate scientists have falsified their data, the IPCC is engaged in “mass psychology”, the UN treaty process is a Marxist plot (yes, really), climate action will see us “descend into serfdom”, and so on.

When cornered, antivaxxers say they are just posing questions. In the same way, when the Australian is called out for giving a platform to climate change denialism, they say they are just contributing to debate.

While the paranoid mindset and arguments of antivaxxers and climate deniers can appear very similar, there are important differences between the politics of the two phenomena.

Firstly, while climate science denial is found mainly on the right of the political spectrum, antivaxxers can be found at both ends. On the alternative left, where pro-green sentiment is strong, antivaxxers thrive in places like the Byron Bay region and the “wellness” industry, while the far-right have been behind antivax and anti-lockdown rallies.

Second, while antivax activism is not respectable in the political mainstream, climate denial is rife, although thinly concealed. The influx of deniers into the Liberal and National parties has set the political agenda for years. As Malcolm Turnbull put it: “That rightwing populist climate-denying section of the Coalition is very influential.”

Craig Kelly, who says he is not an antivaxxer but who has repeatedly questioned the efficacy of Covid 19 vaccination, has fallen out with the Liberal party, yet his offence seems only to be one of disinhibition, expressing too openly his views on both climate and Covid.

Third, while the mainstream media treat Covid deniers and antivaxxers with disdain, sections of the media have for years actively promoted climate science denial. The Australian has published hundreds of news stories disparaging climate science and hundreds of opinion pieces packed with misinformation, and conspiracy.

Fourth, while Covid denial and antivax conspiracy theories have grown organically, climate science denial was manufactured and spread by powerful interests. It is well-documented that, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the fossil fuel industry and Republican party operatives developed the arguments and the political strategies to cast doubt on climate science, a campaign that took root in rightwing political culture around 2010.

I have documented how rightwing Australian thinktanks, funded by the mining industry, imported from the United States the arguments and the strategies of the doubt-mongers.

What would it take for antivaxxers and climate science deniers to “wake up”? Studies have shown that facts are puny against the carapace of denial when people’s sense of self is at stake.

However, in the case of antivaxxers, imminent death seems to do the trick. In the US, the death-bed conversions of a number of high-profile antivaxxers who caught the virus has attracted attention, and mockery.

Climate science deniers are less likely to experience such conversions. Even during the horror fires of Black Summer, deniers in towns ringed by inferno were still insisting the fires were a natural event. 

A large majority of the public has always supported climate action, though mostly without much conviction. That is now changing, which may explain why Scott Morrison is trying to recalibrate and the Murdoch media are said to be changing their position on climate action.

If true, it only confirms that they pick and choose from the science to suit a political agenda.

Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and the author of five books on climate change

— Read on

The new responsibility for CSR and purpose in current times | PBA #SDGs Breakdown or Breakthrough? #ClimateCrisis #Covid #Poverty #Hunger #Equality #FundOurFutureNotGas #StopAdani Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13

We sat down with Dr Virginia Munro to talk about her new book, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation: The New Responsibility. 

By Wendy Williams

Emphasising a global perspective, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation offers a deep dive into social entre- and intrapreneurship, innovation, shared value, social impact, stakeholder engagement, and the development of the UN sustainable development goals beyond 2030.

Dr Virginia Munro provides a framework for understanding the evolving role of the corporate dollar in the pursuit of a global ecosystem that is more inclusive of all stakeholders.

She says her aim is to show that the connection between business and society is circular and inseparable. 

In addition to practical strategies, Munro hopes her book will help people build on the many research gaps she’s identified, to take these topics to the next level. 

We sat down with her to find out what prompted her to write her new book, why she wants to dispel any potential myth that CSR is dying, and why she thinks Australia is falling behind.

Why did you write this book?

Dr Virginia Munro

There is a strong misconception regarding corporate social responsibility (CSR), and how it fits with related and complementary terms (such as, sustainability, shared value, corporate citizenship, conscious capitalism and B-Corp). I first noted this when working in the Middle East/Africa, followed by the UK, and more recently Asia. In these regions there is an entrenched commitment to CSR.

On returning to Australia, I found a complete disconnect with these themes.

In the UK, for example, CSR is “a given”, with even small to medium enterprises (SMEs) prolific in its uptake.

Australia in contrast, mentions CSR far less. The term is then further diluted, referring to it as “sustainability” – in an economy driven by mining – with “environmental” issues as a predominant theme. 

This book was written to provide transparency on this and acknowledge that “social” and “environmental” initiatives are inextricably linked in a circular discussion.

In doing so, I hope to encourage universities to teach deeper on “responsibility” – and therefore CSR, value creation, social impact measurement and reporting – alongside new and in-vogue degrees for “social enterprise” and innovation. The current focus on the “social entrepreneur” is one-sided and needs inclusion of all “preneurs” (such as corporate social entrepreneurs and the many types of social intrapreneurs). In particular, millennials and Gen Z need to understand these different roles and funding options, including corporate funding, project “incubation” and provision of additional skill sets available in CSR settings. 

Remorseless financial crises. Extreme inequalities in wealth. Relentless pressure on the environment. Anyone can see that our economic system is broken. But can it be fixed?

In Doughnut Economics, Oxford academic Kate Raworth identifies the seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray – from selling us the myth of ‘rational economic man’ to obsessing over growth at all costs – and offers instead an alternative roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. Ambitious, radical and thoughtful, she offers a new, cutting-edge economic model fit for the challenges of the 21st century. 

Doughnut Economics

I also wanted to dispel any potential myth that CSR is dying or becoming extinct. The book provides case studies and research to back where CSR stands around the globe and how its evolving, especially in response to the “stakeholder inclusion” movement and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). I also hope this book will assist industry to move beyond fashionable trending statements and social media lingo-based blogs, by unveiling the use of concrete terms alongside actionable and measurable strategy.  

You say in the preface that “the purpose of this book is inseparable from the current and escalating need for renewed purpose, in both our business and personal lives”. Can you expand on that? 

Purpose as a business concept has been around for quite some time. However, more recent transitions (e.g. from “what if climate change” to “actual climate action”), means we all need to rapidly re-examine a renewed sense of our own personal “purpose”. Any transition involves a cognitive mind shift in the way we perceive our social and natural environment, and can include everything from: what we purchase and how we dispose of it, to how we treat and provide for others in acknowledged settings of inequality.

With regards to our working lives, we need to help managers re-define operations toward purpose – by placing a systemic problem at the centre of the business model, where action toward that problem becomes a solvable challenge. This purpose must directly drive the selection of products and services; watch over the entire supply chain; and redefine operations to be seamlessly integrated within the model’s networks and communities. The overall objective of this book therefore is to show that the connection between business and society is circular and inseparable.

How timely is the topic given the circumstances in Australia and the world?

The Build Back Better movement which gathered momentum during the COVID outbreak in 2020 and the 2021 World Economic Forum based on The Great Reset, continue to highlight the urgency and timely nature of these topics. I was fortunate to be researching these themes long before they entered mainstream discussion. This allowed me from the book’s first inception, to directly focus on what’s required right “now” and also beyond 2030 and 2050. 

Included in this journey was the revelation that CSR has moved beyond its early years of philanthropy to a new type of responsibility and a new and evolved type of CSR. I label this CSR 4.0, as it has a strong part to play in the current transition toward Globalization 4.0, and the “reset” toward a new global economic and social system. During my research, I developed an eight-stage approach for CSR 4.0 referred to as the DIIP-SSMC, to deliver performance indicators based on: innovation, inclusion, collaboration and engagement, in a shared, integrated and networked organisational system. All performance indicators are built to be measurable and promote circular social and environmental initiatives which are SDG motivated. As we rapidly usher in Globalization 4.0, CSR 4.0 will develop in response and provide an important framework during this transition for C-Suite leaders, small business managers, various “preneurs” and government intrapreneurs. 

You mention that a deep transformation is required for CSR and society, as we move toward stakeholder capitalism and away from shareholder capitalism.

Where is Australia on this journey?

Compared with other developing countries, Australia is falling behind, especially with the roll out of the SDGs for all stakeholders by 2030. We have seen a cognitive shift in some sectors, but the Australian government is behind on delivery with even the basic issues.

In particular their human rights issues for migrants and the gap in Indigenous and non-Indigenous equality alongside other noted inequalities such as gender.

Frowned upon the world over, is also their slowness to discontinue fossil fuel production and commit fully to carbon zero by 2050.

The cognitive mind shift I refer to, has not yet reached the highest levels of Australian government.

The direction is murky and doesn’t currently include any real acknowledgement of an existential manmade climate crisis, past greed, current inequalities and documented future ecological extinction.

This after all is the “Decade to Deliver” – that’s right now please.

 We must all play our part in the future we wish to see.

See here for more information or to read a sample of CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation: The New Responsibility.

— Read on

Forget plans to lower emissions by 2050 – this is deadly procrastination | Peter Kalmus | The Guardian #ClimateCrisis Demand #ClimateAction #SDG13 #FundOurFutureNotGas #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Fixating on ‘net zero’ means betting the future of life on Earth that someone will invent some kind of whiz-bang tech to draw down CO2.

By Peter Kalmus

The world has by and large adopted “net zero by 2050” as its de facto climate goal, but two fatal flaws hide in plain sight within those 16 characters. One is “net zero.” The other is “by 2050”.

These two flaws provide cover for big oil and politicians who wish to preserve the status quo. Together they comprise a deadly prescription for inaction and catastrophically high levels of irreversible climate and ecological breakdown.

First, consider “by 2050”. This deadline feels comfortably far away, encouraging further climate procrastination. Who feels urgency over a deadline in 2050? This is convenient for the world’s elected leaders, who typically have term limits of between three and five years, less so for anyone who needs a livable planet.

Pathways for achieving net zero by 2050 – meaning that in 2050 any carbon emissions would be balanced by CO2 withdrawn through natural means, like forests, and through hypothetical carbon-trapping technology – are designed to give roughly even odds for keeping global heating below 1.5C. But it’s now apparent that even the current 1.1C of global heating is not a “safe” level. Climate catastrophes are arriving with a frequency and ferocity that have shocked climate scientists. The fact that climate models failed to predict the intensity of the summer’s heatwaves and flooding suggests that severe impacts will come sooner than previously thought. Madagascar is on the brink of the first climate famine, and developments such as multi-regional crop losses and climate warfare even before reaching 1.5C should no longer be ruled out.

Meanwhile, “net zero” is a phrase that represents magical thinking rooted in our society’s technology fetish. Just presuppose enough hypothetical carbon capture and you can pencil out a plan for meeting any climate goal, even while allowing the fossil fuel industry to keep growing. While there may be useful negative-emissions strategies such as reforestation and conservation agriculture, their carbon capture potential is small compared with cumulative fossil fuel carbon emissions, and their effects may not be permanent. Policymakers are betting the future of life on Earth that someone will invent some kind of whiz-bang tech to draw down CO2 at a massive scale.

The world’s largest direct air capture facility opened this month in Iceland; if it works, it will capture one ten-millionth of humanity’s current emissions, and due to its expense it is not yet scalable. It is the deepest of moral failures to casually saddle today’s young people with a critical task that may prove unfeasible by orders of magnitude – and expecting them to somehow accomplish this amid worsening heatwaves, fires, storms and floods that will pummel financial, insurance, infrastructure, water, food, health and political systems.

It should tell us all we need to know about “net zero by 2050” that it is supported by fossil fuel executives, and that climate uber-villain Rupert Murdoch has embraced it through his News Corp Australia mouthpiece.

So where does this leave us? Stabilizing the rapidly escalating destruction of the Earth will require directly scaling back and ultimately ending fossil fuels. To lower the odds of civilizational collapse, society must shift into emergency mode.

It will be easy to tell when society has begun this shift: leaders will begin to take actions that actually inflict pain on big oil, such as ending fossil fuel subsidies and placing a moratorium on all new oil and gas infrastructure.

Then rapid emissions descent could begin. I believe the global zero-emissions goal should be set no later than 2035; high-emitting nations have a moral obligation to go faster, and to provide transition assistance to low-emitting nations. Crucially, any zero goal must be paired with a commitment to annual reductions leading steadily to this goal year by year, and binding plans across all levels of government to achieve those annual targets. If this sounds extreme, bear in mind that climate breakdown has still only barely begun and that the damage will be irreversible.

Negative emissions strategies must also be left out of climate planning – in other words, forget the “net” in “net zero”. Otherwise they will continue to provide the distraction and delay sought by the fossil fuel industry. It would be beyond foolish to gamble our planet on technologies that may never exist at scale.

Due to the decades of inaction dishonestly engineered by fossil fuel executives, the speed and scale now required is staggering. There is no longer any incremental way out. It’s time to grow up and let go of the fantasy that we can get out of this without big changes that affect our lives. Policy steps that seem radical today – for example, proposals to nationalize the fossil fuel industry and ration oil and gas supplies – will seem less radical with each new climate disaster. Climate emergency mode will require personal sacrifice, especially from the high-emitting rich. But civilizational collapse would be unimaginably worse.

As a climate scientist, I am terrified by what I see coming. I want world leaders to stop hiding behind magical thinking and feel the same terror. Then they would finally end fossil fuels.

— Read on

Creating genuine change through SDG implementation | PBA #SDGs Sustainable Development Goals Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times #auspol #qldpol #Covid #ClimateCrisis #Poverty #Hunger #Equality

Australia may have ranked last for sustainability, but it’s time we realise the SDGs hold the key to a sustainable future, writes Dr Virginia Munro.

Dr Virginia Munro

As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution and usher in Globalization 4.0, it is more urgent than ever to commit to social and environmental goals such as those outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The theory, research, and practice of concepts such as shared purpose, shared value, and corporate social responsibility have evolved rapidly in order to respond to change and transformation in society, but only in a scattershot, poorly understood way, with no single study offering an integrated view of these dramatic transitions.

Emphasizing a global perspective, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation takes long-overdue stock of how such transformations are integrated within the trajectory of CSR’s core concepts. Taking a deep dive into social entre- and intrapreneurship, innovation, shared value, social impact, stakeholder engagement, and the development of the UN SDGs beyond 2030 Virginia Munro provides a framework for understanding the evolving role of the corporate dollar in the pursuit of a global ecosystem that is more inclusive of all stakeholders.
For its theoretical rigor as well as its easily digestible case studies, this book is a must-read for both researchers and students of innovative ‘preneurship’ and CSR-related concepts, and for those struggling to understand the ‘new normal’ in a setting for ‘new responsibility’.
The foreword for this book is written by acknowledged CSR guru and Emeritus Professor Archie Carroll. Additional endorsements supporting this book are supplied by various practitioners and academics including ex-Deputy-Director General of UNESCO and Emeritus Professor Colin Power.


Australia may have ranked last for sustainability, but it’s time for us to realise the SDGs hold the key to a sustainable future after COVID, writes Dr Virginia Munro, who argues we need to work toward genuine commitment and greater SDG accountability. 

Instead of waiting for COVID-19 to disappear, we’ve reached the realisation that it’s here to stay, and we need to adapt to co-exist with it. In its wake, we’ve experienced disruption to our daily lives, the way we work, and how we think and make decisions. At a business level, it has forced change in the way organisations “action” their social, and environmental initiatives, and has thrown a beam of light on the need for policy change. 

In this context, COVID-19 has been a major distraction for the government’s agenda toward a more sustainable Australia. However, even before the first cases of COVID-19 reached Australian shores, there was a lack of urgency for change in sustainable outcomes by government (and particular sectors of the business community). 

With continued COVID lockdowns in Australia and a campaign of mixed messages, many businesses are focused on just staying afloat. Understandably, sustainability through the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), may not currently be a top priority. At the same time, there is an insurmountable and growing fear in society, for both climate change and social action, and a realisation that the SDGs (also known as the Global Goals) provide a vehicle to action this change. In addition, the current literature suggests we must continue to work toward SDG implementation at whatever scale is possible, and independent researchers acknowledge the SDGs provide a realistic approach to navigate societies through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the interim, finding a solution to COVID-19 remains a global priority, and we now rely on a world-wide roll-out of vaccines alongside the notion of working together toward this new normalcy. In a past blog, I mentioned that if we can come together to “turn the tide on this pandemic, surely we also have what it takes to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.  

But where does Australia fit into this?

In an interview with Pro Bono News in April this year, I was asked where Australia was on the SDG journey. My reply was that, compared with other developing countries, Australia is falling behind. I also referred to a “cognitive mind shift” required by the Australian government to deliver on migrant human rights, the gap in Indigenous and non-Indigenous equality, the slowness to discontinue fossil fuel production and the inability to commit fully to carbon zero by 2050. I stated this cognitive mind shift was required at the highest levels of the Australian government, as this type of attitude then spills over to all areas of sustainability – including uptake of the SDGs. 

This has now been confirmed with the June release of the Sustainable Development Report 2021. This research confirms that Australia is ranked last (across 193 UN member countries) for action taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and is therefore last for SDG 13: “taking action to combat climate change”. The current study also ranks Australia 35th in its progress to meet all SDGs. As Australia is the world’s 13th largest economy by GDP, this is way below expectation for a developed country. 

With many country and state borders now closed, localising the SDGs within a country, state or region brings a new opportunity to the context of “acting local”. Australia’s success in this varies and depends on which of the 17 SDGs is focused on by each state, industry sector or independent business. 

With the UN launch of the SDGs in 2015, Australia committed to the SDGs by 2030, however by 2018 research was already reporting that “if Australia continues business-as-usual, we are off-track to achieving the SDGs in 2030 and would achieve about 40 per cent progress on all SDG targets”. By 2020, the same study evaluating Australia’s progress across 86 SDG targets, found Australia had “mixed performance” with strong progress in “goals relating to health and education, undermined by poor progress in goals relating to climate action and reducing inequalities.” 

An interesting finding of this study is the rapid and “growing interest in the SDGs from business and civil society”, suggesting that strong interest from the private sector could have a greater impact on government going forward. 

Chapter three of my book covers the SDGs in depth from the private sector perspective. My research also found that targets for the SDGs were falling behind levels expected for 2030, and not just in Australia. I noted that “SDG washing” was increasingly reported in the academic literature without being defined. I developed a definition to assist this research:

“SDG washing is embracing the SDGs by listing social and environmental initiatives (SIs) under SDG categories without actively implementing them with purpose and intention, and therefore at the heart of the business model.”

The concern that the SDGs may be used as PR or marketing vehicles, leads to the possibility that they may just become a set of norms, as they are not legalised or compulsory. For this reason, encouraging genuine commitment and efficient and fair enforcement of the SDGs, alongside measurement mechanisms that are easily accessible and standardised across nations and countries is necessary. It is therefore vitally important to measure the impact of initiatives introduced to fit each SDG category and SDG label and that this will also ultimately assist with funding SDG implementation at a much faster rate. 

To deliver on sustainability in Australia, we therefore not only need a “cognitive mind shift” in government, we also need to work toward a genuine commitment and greater SDG accountability and therefore impact measurement. This in turn will stimulate SDG impact funding to provide ongoing support. We need to acknowledge this urgency and recognise the need for engagement and deep transformation through SDG implementation at the core of the business model. Businesses both small and large, corporates and NGOs, must lead the way in this implementation.

As more vaccinations are administered and take effect in Australia, we can start to focus again on our journey back toward purpose. If we can collaborate to combat a challenge such as COVID-19, then we should be able to do the same for all challenges that the SDGs work toward.

Globally, we are working toward a new reality for COVID-19. Let’s not make this a “missed opportunity” for a more sustainable Australia. The inconvenience of doing this now, far outweighs the future cost and danger to us all.

Details of Dr Virginia Munro’s latest book, CSR for Purpose, Shared Value and Deep Transformation: The New Responsibility, can be found here.

— Read on

Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times