ACAPMA was present at a recent Industry Summit where the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection outlined the plan to transition Queensland to a zero emissions economy by 2050.  The Summit brought together regulators environmental agencies, energy supply and distribution representatives, finance providers and motivated businesses to explore, consult and engage on the options, pathways, challenges and opportunities that a move to a low carbon and ultimately a zero emissions economy present.

Peter Castellas, CEO of the Carbon Market Institute opened the Summit, thanking invitees for attending and stating that circular conversations on climate change reality and imperatives are fruitless and miss the point that the imperative for change is here now and that “now is the time to get clarity around the requirements of tomorrow, so that we can build pathways towards action that will prove successful for achieving business and environmental goals and ultimately benefit all Queenslanders and Australians”.

Mr Castellas’ comments were echoed and expanded on by the Minister for Environment & Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks & the Great Barrier Reef, the Honourable Dr Steven Miles who outlined that the traditional view that economic growth is intrinsically linked to emissions growth has now been effectively disproven based on the experiences of multiple economies around the world who have been able to secure economic growth while halting and reducing emissions.  “ We were always told that you can not grow an economy without growing emissions, we are now seeing that this is not true.  There is a new phenomena that smart governments need to foster, the decoupling of economic growth and emissions growth.”

The Minister outlined that the Department has released the Queensland Climate Adaptation Directions Statement which includes a detailed plan for transition to a low carbon and ultimately a zero emissions economy by 2050.  Key to the plan is a commitment to renewable energy and adoption of new and emerging technologies.  “The Adaptation Strategy provides both a goal and a plan on how to get there.  The goal is to ensure that our State, our people and our economy is ready to adapt.”  The Minister is committed to the success of this climate adaptation and stated that engagement with industry in open forums such as the Summit is critical “this is the start of a relationship that will result in more than our own individual efforts, by combining our efforts, ideas and experiences we can achieve more now.”

The full day Summit included presentations and panel sessions from climate, finance, building, planning, technology, energy and fuel experts as well as from businesses who are leading the charge in climate adaptation who shared their experiences.  Overwhelmingly the presentations and panel sessions highlighted that leading businesses are focused on climate adaptation and are seeing economic, business and competitive advantage opportunities arising from adapting.  In addition to a focus on the opportunities that climate adaptation presents there was a consistent theme from presenters that despite media coverage to the contrary the experience demonstrated at a commercial level is that there is widespread public understanding of the climate imperative and widespread support for change.

Mark Twidell, Director of Tesla Energy summed this emerging theme up “one of the major trends driving us is public support.  The public gets it.  Society gets it.  When public support and technology combine change is supported and can be achieved, it just needs to be given and environment that allows for and fosters change.  Queensland is well suited for this.”  Megan Flynn, Group Manager Environment & Carbon Strategy for Qantas took this theme further “Qantas is seeing the greatest growth in the uptake of optional carbon offsets in the Millennial group.  They are engaged and willing to pay to support change.  By 2020 Millennials will be 50% of the workforce and consumer base, so we see now as the time to grow our efforts in addressing these areas”.

A question was put to all presenters, panellists and delegates at the Summit, if you had one piece of advice to give the Government what would it be.  While there was some variation in responses there was a clear pattern of advising the Government to take its role as leader, major consumer and infrastructure provider seriously in leading the charge and to ensure that initiatives and regulations are simple and complementary of other jurisdictions activities.  Graham  Winkelman, Principle Climate Change & Sustainability for BHP Billiton acknowledged that there will be difficulties particularly for some segments of the economy, but that a multi level view that delivers initiatives that are consistent with international and national approaches will allow for better outcomes.  Mark Twidell, Director of Tesla Energy highlighted the importance of the climate adaptation plan “As the target is for 50% renewables by 2030 and currently 80% of energy is coal it is important to have a plan to get renewables in but there is also a need to have a plan to support and respect the traditional businesses as the traditional sources go out.  That is what the adaptation strategy is about.”

The Summit provided a forum for the exchange of ideas, concerns, excitement and opportunities.  The Queensland Government were available and engaged in discussion and comment during the many networking sessions.

The Queensland Climate Adaptation Directions Statement is available to view at https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/climate/adapting/#qcas.

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