Australia’s fires reignite climate debate

The bush fires that have ravaged Australia since September 2019 have reignited climate debate among the country’s politicians.

Long-known as a climate change sceptic, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has apparently shifted his position on the country’s approach to limiting its emissions. He recently said that he wanted to “do better” and would review his use of carryover credits from the Kyoto protocol if needed. Australia is the only country to use such credits to meet its Paris 2030 emissions target – the credits reflect emissions that the country could have created in the past but did not.

“In the years ahead we are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further,” Morrison said. “We want to reduce emissions and do the best job we possibly can and get better and better and better at it. I want to do that with a balanced policy which recognises Australia’s broader national economic interests and social interest.”

Split

The country’s MPs are split over whether the fires have been caused, or made more intense, by climate change, according to the Guardian newspaper. The tragedy has seen almost 30 people die, 2,000 homes destroyed, and countless animals killed.

Australia’s woes come at a time when analysts are warning that the politics of climate change are not working. “Dozens of countries signed on to the Paris agreement five years ago to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. But nation-states have to date failed to implement policies that come close to achieving that goal,” Ian Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan write in Eurasia Group’s report Top risks for 2020.

They argue that this failure is likely to lead to “…suboptimal corporate decision-making, operational business disruptions, and political instability.”

They estimate that over one third of global capital has some type of environmental, social or corporate governance mandate to exclude investment in companies and countries that do not meet the 2 degree threshold set out in the Paris climate accord. With growing climate change activism on slow-moving organisations becoming a reality, supply chain risk is likely to increase, they say.

Infrastructure

Scientists engaged in the climate debate argue that human-generated emissions of carbon dioxide must reach zero by mid-century to stabilise the global temperature within acceptable levels. But to achieve this, countries need to stop creating new fossil-fuel energy plants and to allow existing plants to wind down and close – sometimes earlier than planned.

“Our estimates suggest that little or no new CO2-emitting infrastructure can be commissioned, and that existing infrastructure may need to be retired early (or be retrofitted with carbon capture and storage technology) in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals,” scientists wrote in a recent letter in the journal Nature.

The IRM is holding an event on the role of risk managers in assessing climate change risks on 17 February 2020.

 

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