On the big convergence of logic, intelligence, reason, investment and survival

We’re winning.

That’s the message from author Naomi Klein this week when she came to town to promote her views on climate change.

That’s the message we get from the astounding number of hits being racked up by Willow’s story on an Aboriginal-owned solar company that is poised to challenge Tesla.

Last time we looked the story had 6.7k shares on Facebook and had burst through the 300 mark on Twitter. [UPDATE 10:18 AM 4 Sept 2015: 9.1k FB and 378 on Twitter] Not bad for what we thought was a niche publication. Not any more it seems.

But then the issues we cover are increasingly mainstream.

Increasingly they make news in the financial press, forced (through clenched teeth, we bet) to cover stories such as the rebuke of former Reserve Bank chairman Warwick McKibbin for his nutty defence of the government’s weak emissions reduction target.  And stories such as the growing moves of institutional investors and banks against coal –  NAB and was one of the latest to say no to Adani’s coal mine. Newcastle, the historic coal city in NSW, has joined the growing ranks in coal divestment and in news just in California has passed a law to force its superannuation companies to go the same way.

Late on Thursday night the AFR brought news that UBS’s global utilities research team had come up with the “startling view” that solar power could account for a quarter of the world’s installed power generation capacity by 2050 and that solar would replace nuclear and coal.

Increasingly the politicians are also realising they need to get with the program.

Suddenly we can’t keep up with what’s coming out of Victoria, which is responding to the critics with a raft of initiatives: on energy efficiency; a restored  Victorian Energy Efficiency Target; leadership in pre-fab, Building Information Modelling and green materials; a bunch of new green schools; protecting consumers who want solar on their roofs from being exploited by energy retailers; and now, believe it or not, they’re looking at mandatory disclosure for residential energy consumption. Not to mention that many of our jobs of the week lately have been in Victoria.

Oh and just on Thursday, hours before we hit the “presses”, it announced a new agency, Infrastructure Victoria. See what we mean?

On the other hand NSW has been resting on its laurels lately, doing a little and basking in a long lingering glow of looking good against its conservative peers. But former environment minister Rob Stokes largely responsible for that bright green spark has been handed the planning ministry (viewed by some as a poison chalice). The danger for the government is that it gets hoodwinked by the development lobby that the most important thing in the world is “planning reform”. Yes it might be important but there is a bigger and faster moving groundswell rising up demanding clean energy and more democratic decisions on issues such as coal mines and roads.

In property it’s happening too.

The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark says that if a company doesn’t meet growing scrutiny on climate, environmental, governance and ethical issues (essentially, risk) they’re divesting. GRESB’s Ruben Langbroek says 54 per cent of companies in the survey already factor in climate risk.

In Shanghai, Lanbroek says, (and we’ve reported) office rental values are going down because of severe pollution and the reluctance of global companies to send their executives there for fear of health risk.

There is a cost to climate change but the biggest cost is not doing something.

At the forefront of the challenges is property. GRESB’s report opened with the centrality of property to most of the major challenges we face on this planet – resource scarcity; urbanisation and climate.

There’s more: congestion, pollution, workplace design, transport, waste production – most of it happens in cities. We have to live with the decisions we make around these issues.

People outside of property are starting to understand this. There is mounting interest in the development of our cities, in congestion, in whether we build roads or rail, in what kind of housing we build and where.

This industry had better get used to coming out of the closet.

The good news is that the big technology innovators, the investors, the crazy dreamers and the do-ers are getting it too.

What’s happening is convergence – of investment, property, clean energy, climate action, technology and ethics.

This week was seminal in proving it.

It started with the inimitable Naomi Klein who came to town and proved she was not going to waste the carbon miles she consumed to get here by playing nice with politics. The Abbott government, she said, was “villainous and criminal”. It had been taking lessons from her Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who played a kind of malevolent big brother, but the biggest lesson were Harper’s flailing polls, she said.

See Cameron’s story on Klein here.

On Q&A on Monday Klein came up against Australian columnist Tom Switzer who seemed a reasonably intelligent kind of guy until he started talking about climate. He looked embarrassed when fellow panellist, feminist Laurie Penny, challenged him.

“Say you and your family get stuck on rail tracks and there is a huge train coming at you, do you first work out what the economic cost will be of getting out of the way?”

It would be interesting to work out the true cost of the GFC or some of the major climate disasters of the last few years to work out what we can and can’t afford. In real life, you afford what you have to.

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