Business leaders call for climate action as government drags its feet


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  • 62% of Australian business leaders, representing Coles companies in Westpac, say the Morrison government is not doing enough to tackle climate change.
  • Nine in ten Australian business leaders said it is time for companies to accelerate their own sustainability plans.
  • The findings emerge as Prime Minister Scott Morrison scrambles to get national MPs on board with a deal he can bring to COP26 next month.
  • Visit the Business Insider Australia homepage for more stories.

Australian business leaders have grown restless and frustrated with the federal government’s failure to take serious action on climate change, just weeks before Prime Minister Scott Morrison heads to the climate summit COP26 in Glasgow next month.

A survey by energy consultancy firm Schneider Electric of 500 Australian business leaders – from Coles and H&M to ANZ, Westpac and Telstra – found that 72% of business leaders said Australia should s ‘commit to zero net carbon emissions by 2050, while 62% said the Morrison government is not doing enough on climate change.

Innes Willox, chief executive of the national employers’ association Ai Group, said the research is emerging as the latest indicator of unease in the business community, which fears it will be left behind as other major economies embrace bold emission reduction targets.

“This research reflects what we’ve heard loud and clear from the industry: They welcome stronger emissions actions and commitments in major economies, and Australian companies are making increasing commitments themselves,” Willox said.

“We see companies joining the energy transition, adopting renewable energies and energy efficient technologies,” she said. “They are ready to support and collaborate with the government as it evolves and improves its climate strategy, but they want clear direction.

“Businesses want to see strong emissions targets for 2050 and 2030 that will place Australia in the mainstream of advanced economies and guide immediate actions and long-term decision-making between governments and agencies.”

The business community’s appetite for climate action has grown in recent months, as the Business Council of Australia, the Farmers’ Federation, the Australian Industry Group and even the Minerals Council of Australia have spoken out in favor of decarbonization and a semblance of a net zero commitment by 2050.

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said earlier this month Australia needed to be more ambitious in the short term to prepare “for the future.”

“We believe Australia can achieve a more ambitious 2030 emissions reduction target of between 46[%] at 50% below 2005 levels, ”Westacott said.

“Setting a more ambitious milestone now will spur new investment and advance actions in areas such as power where we can deploy commercially viable technology at scale,” she said.

“Of course, not all sectors will be able to decarbonise at the same rate, and our plan accelerates this early action in sectors where commercially viable technology exists today.”

Even still, the Morrison government has struggled to come to an agreement with national MPs on meaningful climate action, who dragged their feet on Sunday for four-hour climate talks, before leaving the room without a deal.

Morrison faces strong political pressure from international governments as the rest of the world prepares to adopt tougher climate measures, and businesses fear that because the Prime Minister’s latent action could come at a cost, they should speed up their own sustainability measures.

The survey found that nine in ten executives believe it is time for companies to accelerate their own sustainability plans, while 64% said Australia lags behind other developed countries on the issue. .

Gareth O’Reilly, president of the Pacific zone at Schneider Electric, said the sentiment was concerning, but that the initiative shown by Australian companies was cause for optimism.

“Australian businesses understand that they are being left behind as the world moves towards net zero, and they want to take advantage of the opportunities that a sustainable future can offer,” said O’Reilly.

“What this study reveals is that Australian businesses are telling us it is time for the government to work with them. In fact, more than half of respondents saw companies as the most influential change agents after the federal government, ”he said.

“There is a great opportunity for businesses to harness this atmosphere of ambition to work collaboratively with all levels of government to accelerate sustainable transformation. “

“Climate change cannot be tackled by one organization, one industry, one country or one government; collaboration will be the key to making these changes a reality.

Morrison announced last week that he will attend the UN COP26 climate change summit, after weeks of hesitation. The summit will welcome leaders from around the world to Glasgow next month in hopes of negotiating a new deal to thwart rising temperatures.

“I have confirmed my participation in the Glasgow summit, which I look forward to attending. It’s an important event, ”Morrison told reporters on Friday. “We are working on these issues with our colleagues and I look forward to these discussions over the next two weeks.”

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