22 Aug 2016


Helping our neighbours address climate change through unique partnerships with Australian businesses

The shocking revelation this year that five islands in the Solomons had been lost to sea level rise drew world attention to the climate change risks in South East Asia and the Pacific.

Yet alongside those risks, the region continues to grow as one of the biggest investment grounds for Australian business.

How Australia can protect investments, by supporting the environmental and social resilience of our neighbours, is the subject of WWF-Australia’s first ever podcast – a three part series called Climate Cash - which launched today.

“The region is rapidly becoming one of Australia’s most significant trading partners. But the risks of global warming are serious and require immediate attention. As our podcast highlights, unique partnerships between business, government and NGOs are helping our neighbours adapt and mitigate against climate change and other challenges,” said Adrian Enright, Climate Change Policy Manager for WWF-Australia.

Sea-level rise is forcing communities to move

In the Solomon Islands, farming land is being lost to rising sea levels, crop yields are down, and entire villages are being forced to move from traditional land they had occupied for hundreds of years.

University of Queensland scientist Dr Simon Albert, who revealed the loss of Solomons Islands, told the podcast:

"We’re all quite alarmed at the findings which was that over the past few decades there’s been five islands in the Solomons completely lost. Over the past 5 to 10 years … we’re already starting to see entire communities of several hundred people physically moving their resources and houses and assets to higher ground and resettling into new locations"

Finance for climate change solutions

Industrialised countries have committed to raising US $100 billion per year in public and private funds by 2020 to help developing countries deal with climate change. One of the ways funding will be distributed is through the Green Climate Fund, set up by the United Nations. 

Ewen McDonald, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told the podcast there are significant opportunities in the Pacific:

"…the Green Climate fund has indicated that it's prepared to take more risk than other funds and that’s part of the risk guidelines…Can we get a project in energy, or water or those sorts of areas that traditionally the private sector haven't been interested in?...Now, most of the funding still comes from the private sector, but is it possible that we can provide some funding from the GCF that makes that attractive? … this is a fund that's looking for a paradigm shift. It's looking for transformative projects and programs."

Emma Herd is CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change – a representative body of Australian and New Zealand super funds, fund managers and asset owners with around 65 members representing about $1 trillion under management which is focused on the issue of climate change. She says government and business must work together:

"So where public and private finance partnerships work really well is that they bring more money to market faster, into projects which would generally be considered too high risk to be invested in today. Even though they might be on the cards for tomorrow.

That kind of partnership approach is incredibly important in terms of meeting the time challenge that we have with the issue of climate change."

Martijn Wilder, head of Global Environmental Markets and Climate Change at Baker & McKenzie - the largest international law firm in the world – agrees, but stresses that for businesses, profit is key.

"The private sector has no hesitation in mobilizing funds to invest in things that will assist and be beneficial for the climate. The best example of that is renewable energy. Ultimately, however, the private sector is concerned with making a return on its investment."

Environmental credentials

The bottom line is not always the sole consideration.

Kaelene McLennan is Corporate Affairs, Sustainability & Communications Manager at Simplot (owner of John West which sources tuna from the Pacific.) She told the podcast:

“… our sustainability goal … included not only looking at the sustainability of our food products, but also becoming heavily involved in doing more for the regions from where we were sourcing our raw materials."

“… And we have come to understand, through working with WWF, that there were environmental pressures through the practices of the local communities in these areas that could be improved with some assistance and guidance…”

Opportunities for Australian business

Katharine Tapley, Director of Sustainable Finance Solutions at ANZ Bank, sums it up:

"… climate change creates risks for business and investment… But of course it also creates opportunity. And that opportunity is to transition to a lower carbon economy."

And that’s not all

"there are plenty of opportunities for Australian companies to be exporting their goods and services into the region… water is a good example, where Australian water expertise is world leading because we … understand the best way to manage and distribute a really scarce resource."

The Climate Finance Roundtable

The series also explores the role of the newly formed Climate Finance Roundtable which includes a unique collection of more than 30 business, NGOs, academics and governments working together to put solutions on the ground.

“The climate finance round table is a unique collection of businesses, NGOs, government departments and also academics discussing ways to leverage additional private and public sources of finance, and how to invest this to benefit the highest number of people” said Adrian Enright.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Daniel Rockett, Senior Manager News & Public Affairs, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au