Climate army in action at South Pole Leaders Forum

Belinda Whelan, Director of Strategic Projects at Climate-KIC Australia presents her challenge at the South Pole Climate Leaders Forum in Sydney on May 15, 2019.
Belinda Whelan, Director of Strategic Projects at Climate-KIC Australia presents her challenge at the South Pole Climate Leaders Forum in Sydney on May 15, 2019.

Published 16 May 2019

By Belinda Whelan, Director of Strategic Projects, Climate-KIC Australia

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“Declare runaway climate change a bona fide national emergency” Peter Garret 9 May 2019

As I spent time with Climate Leaders at this week’s South Pole Climate Leaders Forum, it became increasingly apparent that there is a growing army of professionals in traditionally conservative sectors who are fiercely active in climate action, have strong ideas and are poised to be the voice for change within organisations. Organised around the theme of the State of Australian Climate Policy & Finance in the context of the election, I was fortunate enough to present a challenge to this group and receive valuable insights and connections.

The crowd that had gathered were large, diverse and remarkably well-informed about the scale of the climate challenge. Whether they came from the finance sector or academia, from the world of start-ups or property, everybody I met in the pre- and post-drinks were totally conversant on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), changes to the TCFD (Task-Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures), and all manner of other climate change related acronyms! The group was keen to share knowledge and form connections.

The event was structured around a set of challenges presented, with participants invited to add their ideas for change. There were four challenges ranging in topic from greening Australia’s nine million buildings, implementing nature-based solutions to support indigenous communities, encouraging staff to take climate action and moving the flow of public and private capital towards systemic transformations.

My group was focused on this last challenge, and it comprised representatives from the finance, consulting, insurance and property sectors. Working together, the group articulated a range of ideas about which systems were ripe for transformation, and how investment might occur. Importantly, tangible examples were identified, and connections were made within this group. Throughout the discussion, it was evident that the diversity within the group opened up an opportunity for different perspectives to be added, debated and discussed. In 30 short minutes we had created a vision of what Australia could look like in 2030, if it were to invest in systems.

The whole process was, I realised, a sort of microcosm of how we (Climate-KIC Australia) work on a larger scale. We see a challenge to or opportunity for climate impact, we bring the smartest, best-placed people around the same table to come up with some solutions, and we all work together to put it into action.

What was clear to me, was that the Climate Leaders at the forum are looking for both how they might create individual changes within their organisations and how they might work together to create rapid transformations. Regardless of who wins the Federal election this week, I get the sense that this group will no longer wait for large-scale policy changes to tackle climate change but rather will implement the small and large ideas being generated to create change within their organisations – now. They will utilise the networks they are developing at events like this and learn and work across their traditional sectors and silos. I personally have several leads to follow-up on today!

The Climate Leaders Forum is a regular global event series for climate and energy industry professionals hosted by South Pole. In Australia, the location of the event alternates between Sydney and Melbourne. During the forum, speakers and participants have the chance to tap into the wisdom of a crowd of professionals in the climate and energy space, to seek advice and develop new approaches for climate and sustainability-related challenges they face within their own organisations. Become a member of the leaders forum.

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