Taking climate ownership
You don’t have to believe in climate change, just in making more money.
That’s the conclusion I drew from attending a 2018 Managing Climate Risk in Agriculture conference last week in Beechworth.
It struck me, at least anecdotally, that many more farmers no longer question the science. In fact, the general hubbub around the room when one brave farmer accused the Federal Government of a lack of climate-change policy was that most were in furious agreement with him.
So, is the sky falling with many of our government ministers in Canberra being climate-change deniers?
Don’t panic. They’ll change. At least that’s according to lawyer and conference keynote speaker, Sarah Barker who is a Special Counsel, Climate Change Risk with international law firm Minter Ellison.
“I’m a raving capitalist and at the end of the day the market has the final word on everything,” she said.
“You can make as many ideological noises as you wish on either side of the fence, but at the end of the day if the market has determined that something is a financial risk, if the market has determined that it is cheaper and easier to be sourcing power from solar, wind and batteries, than it is for coal-fired power, that’s the end of the debate.”
And she claimed all levels of government were exposed. When Mother Nature turned nasty and people lost their homes, their livelihood, their luxuries, they wanted someone to blame and to pay. Ms Barker said it was only a matter of time before governments were sued.
“We’re seeing across the world, a significant increase in climate litigation driven by people starting to see financial losses associated with climate change,” she said.
“Couple that gap between private-property damage and what insurance will cover, people are out of pocket. So, they look to state and local government in terms of, what information were you giving us? What programs were you putting in place to protect our property?
“They – governments – are exposing themselves to a much higher future liability by having failed to perform their own obligations in a manner that isn’t negligent.”
It’s already happening to large corporations. Last week a claim was made against oil giant Exxon Mobil in the United States for security fraud alleging misleading disclosure in its annual report – very similar to claims that have been made in Australia.
“A claim was filed against the Commonwealth Bank last year in relation to misleading disclosure of climate risk in its 2016 annual report,” Ms Barker said.
“That was withdrawn after a number of weeks. But we’ve now also seen a subsequent case against one of Australia’s large superannuation funds on similar grounds.
“It involved a beneficiary who was seeking information from the fund about how it factors climate risk into analysis of how his and everyone’s money should be invested.
“He couldn’t get that information from the fund and has now expanded the claim to allege the trustee had itself failed to exercise due care and diligence in integrating climate risk into its investment process.”
It has also been revealed the number-one concern in our corporate boardrooms is climate change. While governments procrastinate, the rest of Australia, including our farmers, are dealing with the problem.
DRY: Farmers are increasingly worried about the effects of climate change.