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Facing the Fire: How Australian Businesses Can Take Action on Climate Change in 2020

Burning Forest near Residen
Photo courtesy of Sydney News & Life 2.1.20

As our beautiful country continues to burn amid the worst bushfires this country has ever known, the collective hearts of our nation mourn the loss of 18 lives and the destruction of more than 4 million hectares (10 million acres) of bushland, 1000 homes and the desecration of our unique flora and fauna - with fears of more losses to come. The fires, which show no sign of stopping, have made Australia the international poster child for the devastating impacts of climate change.

We honour and thank the volunteer firefighters and emergency services for their herculean efforts and unlimited bravery, tenacity and courage in fighting the fires. But we have to ask, how much longer can Australia continue to ignore the climate crisis? With nearly half the population impacted by smoke, families displaced and homeless, infrastructure damaged and destroyed, food security and bio-diversity under threat, drought, heatwaves and a diminishing water supply – this is the sad reality of climate change. This represents not only a political and humanitarian crisis but a devastating realisation that our economy is under threat and re-labels the ‘climate problem’ as an ‘economic’ one.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed sympathy for Australia at this time, adding that when it comes to tackling global warming, ‘…right now, the pace we’re on, we’re not winning that race.’

There’s no doubt Australians rise to the occasion during times of adversity, but do we have to wait until conditions are completely untenable before we act? What if we join forces now and collectively take action to tackle the impacts of climate change? Factors like backburning, drought, heatwaves and more, have all contributed to our bushfire emergency. So what can we do?

One of the singularly most important things we can do for the long-term economic stability of our country is to encourage businesses to support the 2020 climate stress tests by APRA. These tests call for financial institutions to be transparent in their Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) position identify climate risks and implement mitigation strategies. This means ongoing transparency of ESG performance, strategies and risk mitigation will flow on and become the norm for Australian companies. The thinking is, that if we identify a company’s ESG position, we can identify actions to reduce activities that contribute to global warming. Thus, acting to improve the health of the planet, reduce global warming and safeguard the Australian economy.

Climate change is inextricably linked to business, power and money. The need for intelligent leadership on climate change has never been greater and the bushfires place the climate emergency firmly on the national agenda. Let’s take this first step to ensuring a long-term sustainable future for all, and support the call for companies to exhibit their ESG position.


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