Boris Johnson

Comment: Today (Tuesday) we sat in on Transform, the Green Building Council of Australia’s big annual conference streaming live. Our brave new world, after COVID-19.

It’s hard to overstate how grounding it was to hear the industry leaders discussing net zero buildings and the urgency of meeting our Paris commitments. Not by 2050 but by 2030, when we need to be well on the road to serious emissions reductions.

Grounding too, to hear debates about fossil fuels’ redundancy and the need to leave gas behind and make sure even electrified buildings more efficient.

It was good to hear about landlords and tenants, and a green agenda. Because when this dreadful thing has passed these are the foundational problems we will still need to tackle and urgently.

Poppy has written a great piece to summarise the key messages of the day. There will be more in the next day or so.

From the UK, David Thorpe, who’s chipping in with an amazing personal offer to help keep The Fifth Estate going during these dim days, came a sobering reality check.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has “slapped down naive optimism about silver linings this week in reference to sharply falling emissions projections by saying, “we will not fight climate change with a virus”, reports David.

And that’s right! Because this thing is temporary, and the danger is that when the economy thunders back to life it will be with whatever dirty fuel it can find. We need to make this a green recovery. It’s disappointing, too, to read that the oil and coal industry are asking for a handout from the public purse, along with everyone else. Especially when they are so keen to stop any government support for renewable energy and have spent squillions on seeding climate denial.

One positive about this battle we’re on, is that it’s teaching us about the war footing we need to be on to deal with the bigger, longer-lasting, more devastating war to hand.

Yes, this coronavirus is a dreadful thing and the tally of sick and dying is already horrific. But we know there will be a cure or a vaccine and that the vast medical resources are being deployed to find it as soon as possible.

Eventually, probably in a year, but hopefully less, something will stop it.

There is an end to this thing, so no, it’s not like the Great Depression. During those dreadful times, people barely understood what an economy was. No-one knew how to deal with it.

Now we have the machinery of governments around the globe united to do the best they can.

Gotta say, though, that of all the action the promise of Boris Johnson in the UK to pay up to 80 per cent of wages and salaries and wages is the most impressive.

There may be kinks and wastage within this promise, but most people can take a 20 per cent belt tightening in these extreme times. What’s most powerful about it, though, is that it’s a vast confidence boosting message that this is not forever. It’s a temporary measure, like the dead battery car we need to all get behind to push by hand until the motor kicks over again.

Our PM, Scott Morrison, has been doing better than in the previous crisis (if we ignore the confusion and his silly thing about going to the footy) but the messages and the stimulus packages are hard to decipher. Johnson’s, by contrast, is simple and powerful.

After the GFC, Johnson, as mayor of London, did the same thing. While most people wrote off London forever as a global centre of finance, Johnson offered anyone at all to come and buy property in London as long as they paid his city a one million pound fee. It worked, the money flooded in. Many grand apartments remained empty, serving only as a cash deposit box for sometimes questionable billionaires. But London recovered and strongly. Not saying that welcoming in the oligarchs is good, but just saying…

The Australian economy needs the same vote of confidence in its future.

And sustainability does too.

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  1. Having returned from working in Australia one year ago, it is comforting that here in the UK the net zero agenda is as buoyant as it is in Australia. For example, 26 members of the Better Building Partnership will be sharing their plans by the end of the year to get to net zero by 2050. Whilst real estate organisations have other priorities at the moment (I’m seeing this right now), this virus is temporary and we’ll be back on track soon. On Boris Johnson, he’s smashing the buffoon persona! He was always rumoured to be a shrewd and calculated performer and his actions continue to show this – he’s leading well in these tough times and his salary protection policy is bold and welcomed over here.

    1. I think it’s a great move, obviously. I can’t believe our gov in Australia is being so complicated about the rescue. Companies will break. Things will fall apart if they are not maintained in working order. Johnson understands that whatever the cost, it has an end date.The Second World War did not and neither did the Great Depression. We will get a cure for this thing. Well done the UK. And for the green agenda it continues to pursue.
      Our ScoMo PM should go visit by zoom and bring back some of the serious marketing clout we need right now.