In news this week…
Our PM Scott Morrison said he “did a jig” when Woodside got approval for the $16 billion Scarborough gas development. (So much for his tip-toeing out into the make believe land where he gives a damn about the planet … and us).
Oil company Shell took over PowerShop, which lost shed loads of customers in a heartbeat in the same week that the Wallerawang coal-fired power station came tumbling down (could the two be at least metaphorically linked? Perhaps so)
NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes was almost canonised for changing the game on climate and sustainability last week when he banned black roofs, mandated carbon neutral buildings from 2022 (in a few weeks, folks) and flagged that embodied carbon will need to be accounted for.
He was shot to the top of the class by the shell-shocked campaigners of old who took at least several good days to process what he had just done.
And on Tuesday we held our latest event, on eco prop tech, that we optimistically called Moonshot 2030, thinking that we need to at least aim to get to net zero by then. It’s an ambition that clearly seemed a bit over the top when we came up with the title eight weeks ago but which by this week was starting to seem way less fanciful at least as a target.
That’s how fast the sentiment is shifting now on climate and sustainability. If the economists think we’re in for the Roaring Twenties again, thanks to the irrational exuberance following the apparent end of Covid, maybe we should rename it the Green Roaring Twenties.
On our event, there is an ebook on the way, and also video clips of the main event sessions.
For now, we’re sharing some of the photos from the day.
On Morrison, well, what’s new? The man is stumbling precariously close to the wayside thanks to the clownish jigs he’s perfected as some kind of vote winner (the kind that in a heartbeat switch from funny to silly ). The jig seemed a (rare?) bout of honest self-representation and shows up that his recent feeble attempts to curry favour with the greenies within his party is no more than a joke. But watch out Morrison – those Liberal climate lovers could be about to hand the Wentworth Independents an excellent chance of a stunning victory through newly announced candidate Allegra Spender.
On Rob Stokes, there was a big unanswered question that popped up after everyone regained their composure, having elevated him to the spot now jointly held with NSW Treasurer Matt Kean. It’s, what was the confluence factors that made Stokes take the leap?
Was it the general mood generated by the big money flows moving our way? Was it COP26, was it an understanding that patience was running out from “We the People”?
We spoke to a very well-connected insider on Thursday morning who made a pretty good-sounding stab at an answer. Because it’s a hugely important question (and one we try to ask wherever possible including at Moonshot – how does change occur? What are the levers and pulleys and machinations – human, technological or historic – that tip inertia over the edge to action?
The obvious factors will all clearly have played a part but according to our insider, there are a few important influences that explain why this happened in Sydney – not Melbourne, not Brisbane, not Adelaide and not Perth – or any other place that’s trundling along as if they’ve got all the time in the world.
First and perhaps foremost, our source said, is the Better Buildings Partnership, which is in Sydney but not elsewhere.
The BBP is a collaboration between the biggest property owners in Australia, who often have influential global investors within them, who naturally are attuned to the activity going on overseas in grown up land, (not here where it seems our leaders seem happy to throw us all under the bus for the sake of a tiny minority.)
These property owners have been working hard for a decade to bring about greater sustainability through collaboration and ambition in a partnership developed with the City of Sydney.
Which, let’s not forget, is on the eve of council elections on 4 December – to be fought once more by incumbent Lord Mayor Clover Moore, who has herself forged clear leadership on climate and sustainability that doesn’t take crap from anyone, least of all the recalcitrants in state government and business.
So there’s vision at the top.
Of course, it’s all very well for the City to encourage greater ambition from its big property owners but another thing to make it happen. For instance, the group might hubbub in great earnestness but when it comes time to shape policy its members must go back to head office and start the hard work of bringing their peers and superiors to the party. Which is hard for senior people and especially hard if you’re a middle-ranking rep on the committee.
What Rob Stokes might have done, our insider said, is to note that the property leaders have all forged sustainability leadership – they all have net zero targets for instance – and that this has shifted the market, which has led to prices falling for sustainabilty in general.
And that’s a good time to implement change for everyone else.
It’s a model of change we hear Singapore uses: you get a few leading private enterprises to collaborate on change and when you have a small but effective band of change agents, the government is confident to roll out mandates for the rest of the country.
Our source says a version of this model exists in California.
The government there has two versions of its building and construction code: one that’s significantly more ambitious that operates in wealthy areas, such as San Francisco, and a less ambitious one for everyone else. The plan is that the outperformers start to shift the market and thereby bring costs down for others to follow suit.
It’s an elegant formula that captures the beautiful nexus between human behaviour and economics that can deliver powerful shifts. The kind we need.
The other big shape shifters have been the Green Building Council of Australia and the NABERS rating system. Both have been tremendously effective, but again, particularly in Sydney. And both are ramping up their ambitions on net zero. All things to give confidence to the minister that the “M” word (mandates) might be safely rolled out.
It finally, thank goodness, puts paid to the notion that voluntary will get us to where we need to go – in time.
Now the hope is that Sydney/NSW acts like the wealthy scions at the top of the power tree and that now the rest of the country can quickly follow suit. We have a model now, the sky didn’t fall in, but the climate will if don’t grab our Moonshot chance for 2030.