Women for climate sitting around table

Where will our next crop of climate leaders steer us?

A program launched in May, hosted by the City of Sydney, has paired 20 emerging climate leaders with 20 established climate leaders in the country’s first iteration of the Women4Climate

So, what are the mentees cooking up?

Jillian Reid, senior responsible investment specialist at Mercer, hopes for a world where super funds communicate the interdependence of people, planet and prosperity.

“If we want a ‘strong economy’, we need to ensure the financial wealth we generate also ensures wellbeing,” she says.

“If that message could resonate, super funds, companies and governments who make sustainability standard would be rewarded, and those who are falling behind would be more clearly encouraged to catch up.

“There are already many exciting examples of how we can transition to a net zero carbon economy, create resilience in our physical environment, and minimise water use and unnecessary waste – proving we no longer need to make outdated binary choices between our economy and our environment.”

Reid’s project involves illustrating how members are part owners of where they live, work and visit, and “how it is mutually beneficial for us as residents and investors to act on climate change.”

She says although Australian funds invest across the whole economy for the long-term, many members don’t have a strong understanding of the process or appreciate that their investments make them part owners in.

This includes buildings, infrastructure and the largest 300 companies listed on the Australian stock exchange.

She also says that superannuation members may not realise how climate change poses a risk to the returns of those investments.

Dani Alexander, a research principal at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, envisions a future where Australian businesses are empowered to “flex their energy”.

“I believe in a future where people can make their businesses energy positive, using 100 per cent renewables in a way that cuts costs and stabilises the grid,” Alexander says.

She says flexibility is crucial to a global clean energy transition with the “least regrets”.

“Relying on ‘big engineering’ thinking to solve the energy transition is likely to lock out more efficient local solutions and future technology. It is tempting for some to cut the ribbon on big hydro, big batteries and big transmission infrastructure,” Alexander says.

“However, these solutions are likely to increase energy bills by ignoring the revolution around smaller decentralised generation (like solar PV and batteries) and technologies that allow us to better control our energy use.”

The project she is undertaking through the mentoring program involves test the feasibility of a local “energy flexing” system for a set of sustainability leaders.

The project will involve testing different technologies that might be suitable to deliver a flexible local energy solution.

“Together we will develop a strong value proposition for energy flexibility that catalyses change.”

See the website for more postings in the coming weeks

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