Australia is in danger “floating away in a direction no one else is going” on climate change, warned Dutch businessman and president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Peter Bakker.
Speaking at the annual Fiona Wain Oration in Sydney hosted by Sustainable Business Australia, (now rebranded as the Business Council for Sustainable Development Australia) Mr Bakker didn’t let Australia off lightly – neither its decision makers, policymakers, nor businesses – for stalling on climate change and sustainability issues.
“This country is economically dependant on coal, so the transition pathways are going to look a bit different than other places. But transition you must,” Mr Bakker said.
He also believes businesses should “lead the way” and “not put [their] heads in the sand.”
“Business keeps looking at politics and using that as an excuse not to move. I saw this everywhere else five years ago. But you are now the only ones.”
Mr Bakker urged Australia to “get back on the front foot” or risk falling behind.
He said that the cost of inaction is “shooting up everywhere”, from changing weather patterns to droughts.
“All of you get this, but please don’t say you do this for children or your children – this is now, it will be you [experiencing the impacts].”
How to make the change happen
“The world is about to go through major systematic changes,” Mr Bakker said. “In business we are good at managing incremental improvements. But this is system transformation, it is radical.”
But he said sustainability is not the main driver for this widespread systemic change. It’s technology.
“But if we are smart, sustainability will be the shaper.”
Mr Bakker said that business goal posts need to shift for real transformation to occur.
“It will only happen if we change the definition on the cost of capital,” he said.