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On ambitions big, very big and indifferent

News from the front desk, Issue No 415 – It’s exciting this week to bring you a special report that proves that sustainability and green investment is the winning track to be on.

Robert Harley, one of the most highly regarded property and business writers in the country, dissects for us the nuanced way that the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, tackles its green ambitions, and why founder and chief executive Larry Fink thinks it’s the way of the future.

Fink, we’ve flagged in the past, is the man who rocked the investment world early in the year with his letter to top global corporates to warn them they need to be on a sustainable path or don’t bother asking his group for money.

Naturally, that’s an open invitation to the champions of greens and zealots alike to scrutinise the actions behind such strong sentiments. BlackRock, as can be expected, copped a serve for not being green enough. We covered that story in September here.

It’s an issue that opens up a whole can of worms about ethics, especially for large complex entities, who are either in transition to a better world or simply doing greenwash – sometimes both at once.

Then there is the maddening delay that tends to exist between the moment we suddenly “get” a new ethical position or understanding and the time it takes to drag our corporeal world from its old ways to new. Transition.

We’ve struggled a lot with these questions at The Fifth Estate and consulted with many of our supporters and readers about the nuances involved. You need to factor in too, the natural ebb and flow of any revolutionary change contrasted with the urgency for action.

There’s no easy answer but that’s why The Fifth Estate exists, we reckon: not to say, hey, this is the right way to be but to share solutions and ideas in the belief that many voices and many brains can fast track miracles.

Let’s not forget how inventive humans are. It’s evolutionary. Looking at politics right now, you can see who will make it and who will become extinct.

Politics

As the Australian government goes into a nosedive of panic and fractious division it’s pretty clear the Australian public is moving on and is on the winning side. Business too. The government’s own members are deserting it citing a host of reasons, mostly to do with lack of respect.

Lack of respect for the climate is looming largest.

At the Wentworth by-election, every Liberal supporter we spoke to at the polling booths was embarrassed to be asked how they reconciled their own stand on climate and that of their party’s. Shuffling of feet, looking into the distance, a promise to talk “after this was over”.

In Victoria, we didn’t have the opportunity to check out the hustings, or the polling booths. But we didn’t need to.

For months the VicGov had been sending a stream of delightful media releases our way, all pro-climate action, pro-sustainability: subsidies, grants, policies on side. While the opposition promised to kill or badly maim the same.

The federal opposition meanwhile has banked on the renewables drift turning into a torrent and is already releasing Vic style policies, starting with the sublime idea to support the government’s own energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee, that the government designed, then dumped.

Another promise from the opposition is to offer $2000 subsidies for solar, just in case anyone had any doubts about what side it was on. It means dollars in your pockets and before long, free energy, just like Vivek Wadhwa from the Singularity University told us years ago. After the initial cost of the infrastructure.

If our PM really means it when he says the most important thing is to keep energy prices “down down down” then he could not do better than highly conservative sunny Texas where wind and solar power have driven down peak pricing down by 55 per cent, we learnt from Verge Weekly on Thursday.

For those who are worried about how to pay for the green infrastructure, no need. Green is where “jobs and growth” are and therefore where the taxes and economic lubricants for government and business alike will be.

Jobs and growth

Jon Jutsen of A2EP rounded up the numbers in his formula for an energy transition that we posted early this week. If we look at the US experience and extrapolate to Australian potential there could be 370,000 jobs in green industries, he’s figured.

Right now according to figures supplied for us on Thursday by researchers at The Australia Institute using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there are 55,400 people employed in coal mining as at August this year.

The 2016 Census found just 8000 people worked in fossil fuel electricity generation, TAI said.

Environment Victoria’s Dr Nick Aberle said there was no doubt the major issue in the Victorian election was climate change and clean energy.

“Labor ran a strong campaign with renewable energy in contrast to the Liberal party proposing to unwind the RET (renewable energy target) and proposing to keep open coal fired power plants and possibly build a new gas power station,” he said on Thursday.

“It’s a major contrast on energy and climate and we know that exit polling by Channel 9 found it was one of the top five issues for voters. It’s pretty clear the Federal Libs need a strong story to tell on climate change.”

Aberle said OpEds were now starting to appear in the Oz, that the Coalition had to change its position or face electoral defeat.

Former foreign minister Julie Bishop has recently called for the NEG to be reinstated, and Julie Banks, the MP who resigned from the party recently, cited climate and energy as among the reasons she was leaving.

Another Liberal, Kelly O’Dwyer, has called out the party as “homophobic, anti-women, climate-change deniers”.

How much longer can this determination to deny the importance of climate go? The Fifth Estate asked Aberle.

That’s precisely the question that featured in the EV’s full page ad in The Age on Thursday, Aberle said: “The climate is changing? When will the Liberals?”

Image supplied.

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