UPFRONT Weather or not is the question

Worried about the weather? And not just in ‘will we have great summer’ sort of worried. We mean weather as in global climate change and its impact on life and enterprise.
A high-powered group of politicians, environmental experts and business leaders met in Auckland last month for the Australasian Climate Change and Business Conference.
And if you’re one of the shrinking pool of sceptics that believes the growing number of extreme weather events are just an aberration and we’ll soon return to normal, it is time to wake up and smell the carbon emissions.
From politicians to industry tsars there was unanimity on the import of the gathering storm clouds. “I take it as read that you accept this is sizeable issue,” said Energy Minister Pete Hodgson before telling delegates that the Government is “determined to ensure that our policy allows for business opportunities”. And that was key point. Alongside the business challenges, there are opportunities for innovation and growth.
Actually, business needs to provide some of the answers. “Global warming will not be solved, or ameliorated, unless it becomes an economic issue,” said Hodgson. “Private enterprise must be able to make buck.” Trade carbon emissions for example. He suggested businesses count energy efficiency as an input cost. “Energy efficiency gains are easily overlooked – many New Zealand businesses have made spectacular gains and others can but don’t.”
There are, he said, opportunities for services to handle adaptations to the new conditions climate change brings, like planning for floods and other extreme weather events. Kyoto ratification gives New Zealand companies an edge over non-ratifying countries. We can, for example, trade emissions with the other 125 countries in the accord. Companies from countries outside the accord can only trade by partnering with company located inside the accord, said Hodgson.
Former regional president of BP Australasia, Greg Bourne says the world is headed for latter day industrial revolution – period of change that rivals in impact the explosion of commerce heralded by the introduction of machinery and factory production couple of hundred years ago.
Bourne calls himself “business greenie” and holds number of key environmental sector positions including chair of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Victoria, Australia. The level of awareness of the issues is the key factor in driving change, he said. “When you get Hollywood dealing with the issues – The Day after Tomorrow (a big budget disaster movie about unrestrained consumption giving rise to the biggest storm in history) is the first of the climate change blockbusters – the message is getting out to the public.” The tide is turning in terms of attitude, he added.
The business community will drive the change but dealing with climate change issues will require “huge and fundamental” shift. But how to drive dynamic economies in ‘carbon-controlled’ future, is the challenge according to Bourne. “Cost-of-carbon models show economies declining but they don’t include the stimulating effect of new business. The paradigm of demand growth and always building one more plant has worked well for 100 years – but it needs to shift. It’s easy to reduce the demand side but harder at the supply side.”
The paradigm shift may be frightening for business but company directors who fail to take future environmental risks into account will be accused of being derelict in their duties.

A real & present ‘weapon of mass destruction’

South Australian Premier Mike Rann told conference delegates that Australia is at crossroads. Climate change is “greater threat than terrorism”. Its effect on Australia is already devastating with floods, loss of productive land and probable growth in infectious diseases. The country is suffering “the greatest effect on developed nation in all the world” and in the face of this disaster he says the federal government is “half-hearted and gutless”.
Rann says the main threat to the world’s environment is carbon dioxide. “Over the past six years the effects have been stunning in Europe with the recent summer so hot that you would see it only once in 50,000 years in stable climate.”
The smart businesses are getting in quick, he said. Business can seize opportunities from climate change issues, but business should expect comprehensive plan from government to deal with the big challenges.

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