Property developer Lendlease has warned the federal government not to miss the opportunity to commit to cutting carbon emissions to zero by 2050 at the upcoming United Nation’s climate conference in Glasgow in October.
- The Australian Institute of Company Directors has set up a local chapter of the Climate Governance Initiative
- The Climate Governance Initiative advises boards on how to adapt their businesses to cope with global warming
- Australia’s captains of industry are calling on the Federal Government to sign up to net zero emissions by 2050 ahead of the COP26 global climate summit later this year
The call comes as Australia’s company directors open a local chapter of the global Climate Governance Initiative, which aims to educate boards about overhauling their businesses to help reduce global warming.
Lendlease’s chairman and Woolworths director Michael Ullmer told the ABC that companies needed clear rules so they could plan and prepare for climate change.
The global property developer has committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and has pledged to be absolutely net zero by 2040, which would mean it would not need to use carbon offsets to slash its pollution levels.
The federal government has promised to lower Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, but it has resisted pressure to sign up to net zero by 2050.
The US and the UK governments and former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon have slammed Australia for not joining other advanced economies and making the pledge.
Mr Ullmer said Australian companies were looking for certainty on carbon targets and the federal government should heed the call to sign up to net zero by 2050 before or during the UN climate change conference.
He said Australia could “eminently” achieve net zero by mid-century and it would be disappointing if Australia failed to commit to the target.
“I think it would be a missed opportunity to be honest,” he said.
“I think the reality is people are just going to get on and do it and if we have the government there supporting us that would be very helpful.”
What are big firms doing to cut pollution?
Many big businesses have already begun “decarbonising” their companies and they want to see more action and policy from government.
Lendlease builds flats, workplaces, retirement homes, hospitals, universities and stadiums with operations across Australia, the Americas, Europe and Asia.
The property developer is phasing out diesel and gas in its operations and aims to only use renewable energy by 2030.
Big miners BHP and Rio Tinto have pledged to reduce their carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and they are funding technologies to reduce the pollution levels of their customers, which include steel mills.
They have both promised to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least a third by the end of the decade.
Around the world major investors have cut their investments in fossil fuel producers.
Environmental finance group Market Forces found in recent research that Australia’s 10 major superannuation funds had cut an estimated $2.5 billion in investment from oil and gas firms and coal miners.
However, the group said pension funds should be divesting from fossil fuels at a faster pace.
What is the Climate Governance Initiative?
The Climate Governance Initiative was set up in collaboration with the World Economic Forum to help boards set up mechanisms to help them to adjust their businesses to deal with a hotter planet.
It has more than 20 bodies globally including in the UK, the US, Canada and France.
The Australian Institute of Company Directors chief executive Angus Armour said the goal of the initiative was to deepen the understanding of climate change governance on boards and provide resources and education for board members.
“Climate risk is no longer an issue facing select sectors, but a standing item on many board agendas, and our goal is to deepen the conversation on climate governance in Australia.
Mr Ullmer said the initiative would help not just big business, but small- to medium-sized firms in understanding their climate obligations.
“This initiative by the Institute of Company Directors is very important in helping the directors of Australian companies better understand what their obligations are in responding to climate change and how they oversight their management teams in looking at both the risk and the opportunities,” he said.
In a recent survey of directors by the AICD, more than half said climate change was a major issue that kept them awake at night.
They also nominated climate change as a key short- and long-term priority for the federal government.
What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is the United Nations treaty on climate change, which 196 countries signed up to at the last UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.
The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5C, compared with pre-industrial levels.
The plan is for countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.
What is COP26?
The next round of international talks on climate change takes place from late October to mid November.
Known as COP26, the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, will kick off in Glasgow in Scotland.
Countries are being asked to commit to ambitious emissions reduction targets by 2030 that will lead them to net zero by the middle of this century and achieve the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming.
COP26 is asking developed countries to commit at least $100 billion in climate finance per year by 2020 in the fight against the damaging impact of global warming.
Countries are being urged by COP26 to take strong action including:
- accelerate the phase-out of coal
- curtail deforestation
- speed up the switch to electric vehicles
- encourage investment in renewables
“The climate is already changing, and it will continue to change even as we reduce emissions, with devastating effects.”
World leaders have two weeks to finalise the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational.
COP26 is calling on nations to speed up action to tackle the climate crisis through “collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society”.
After COP26, young environmental activists from around the world will have their say at Mock COP26 in late November, a conference organised by young people for young people.
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