A survey of carbon reduction and energy efficiency professionals has found the sector has little faith in the government’s proposed Emissions Reduction Fund.

Following the repeal of the carbon tax in August, the Carbon Management Institute of Australia and New Zealand undertook a survey in conjunction with Sustainable Business Australia to take the pulse of the carbon reduction and energy efficiency sector.

The responses from over 600 members of both organisations showed an overwhelming majority have no faith the ERF will deliver significant abatement results, and that the policy bloodbath of recent months has seen energy efficiency and carbon reduction shift lower down the priority list for roughly one in five organisations.

The report on the survey was released Thursday morning in Sydney at a breakfast event where chief executive of the Clean Energy Regulator Chloe Munro delivered the keynote address.

Chief executive of Sustainable Business Australia Andrew Petersen found some reasons for optimism in the report’s findings, however, largely around the drive and commitment of the majority of carbon management professionals and many forward-thinking businesses.

“Australian business investment and innovation continues to play a critical role in the pursuit of sustainable development,” Mr Petersen said.

“CMIANZ’s report highlights the majority of businesses will maintain their commitment to carbon management in the wake of the repeal of the Clean Energy Future legislation. The repeal of the CEF legislation does not remove the organisational investment involved in carbon management; it just shifts the risk from a management risk to a reputational risk with potentially higher penalties for inaction.

“The CMIANZ survey [also] confirms that in spite of the repeal of Clean Energy Future legislation many forward thinking Australian businesses are continuing to invest and will remain engaged in finding commercial solutions to carbon abatement and management.

“Effective and efficient carbon management is an integral part of sustainable development, and encouragingly 78 per cent of survey respondents report that investment in carbon management and energy efficiency programs in their organisations has increased or stayed the same in the past 12 months.”

Another key finding of the survey is that larger organisations are more responsive to the regulatory environment – or lack thereof – than smaller ones, and also that only one-third of larger organisations have set carbon and/or energy reduction targets.

The report states, “The price on carbon and the Clean Energy Future legislation was important for driving innovation and investment only for larger companies. Most carbon reduction measures are still focused at harvesting the low-hanging fruit such as behaviour changes, upgrading lighting, efficiencies and recycling. A quarter of respondents are however upgrading at building efficiencies such as HVAC and investing in solar PV.

“More mature levels of carbon management incorporating data management systems for comprehensive carbon reporting and analysis, executive team buy-in with carbon management aligned to business strategies and sustainability branding was not evident from this survey.”

Barriers to the implementation of carbon abatement and energy efficiency initiatives identified by respondents were primarily attributed to lack of a policy framework for long-term investment, and available capital for investment in abatement.

A clear, bipartisan policy framework, an improved regulatory environment and access to funding, such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which would provide “adequate returns on investment” would, the report states, “assist business in playing a key role in helping Australia transition to a low-carbon economy”.

Some of the key statistics:

  • 77 per cent of respondents have no faith the ERF can generate sufficient abatement to meet our emissions reduction targets; just three per cent think it has the capacity to meet current or future targets
  • 38 per cent of respondents’ organisations intend to increase investment in carbon abatement over the next 12 months
  • 32 per cent have already increased carbon abatement and energy efficiency activities in the past 12 months
  • 27 per cent anticipate a decrease in investment in carbon abatement and energy efficiency over the next 12 months
  • 22 per cent have already seen a decrease in the importance of energy management in their organisation over the past 12 months
  • 57 per cent agree that in the current policy vacuum following the carbon tax repeal, carbon risk moves to being reputational risk rather than a management risk
  • 60 per cent are in a professional role where carbon management is an important element of that role, but only half said they had the supported they needed from their company’s chief executive