Photo credit: The Climate Reality Project
By Sue Mathews, Mullum Trust
Al Gore was in town last week, but you had to be part of the investment world to know it. My partner Mark and I were lucky to be invited by Julia Harley from Ethinvest, our financial advisers, to hear from Al and his partner in Generation Investment Management, David Blood.
Al Gore expressed optimism in relation to the US election, confident that the economic benefits of Biden’s policies will have become evident to people by then. He was similarly optimistic about a worst-case scenario where a Trump administration might abolish the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): as it is based largely on tax credits for private investment (now totalling more than $1.2 trillion), much of which has been in red (Republican) states, it would be an unpopular move for Trump. He noted a corresponding political shift regarding climate in those states — observing that they have been attractive to climate-related developments in part because they have less stringent labour laws than the Democrat-leaning blue states (a bit of a win/lose there in my view, but overall, a good thing, of course).
Asked about the COPs being held in petrostates, Gore didn’t hold back: “They’ve gamed the process”, he said, and hope of strong outcomes rests with COP30 in Brazil and “COP21 here in Australia” (!).
David Blood rehearsed some of the exhortations now familiar to AEGN members: sustainability is a vital dimension of fiduciary duty; there need be no financial penalty; we need huge amounts of new investment — $2.4 trillion to the hard-to-abate sectors of concrete, steel and agriculture, and 85 per cent must go to the developing world. He stressed the interconnections between investing for climate and for equity, diversity and inclusion. Asked about what were the main challenges, he listed the dearth of data, the need for collaboration and most of all, government policy, i.e., policy that accelerates private investment, the most obvious and important being a carbon price.
Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of their fund, they thanked the Australian investors who had been early movers and stressed the importance of using our influence to create the confidence political leaders need to take the ambitious action that is desperately needed.
Gore finished with his characteristic guarded optimism, comparing climate change to previous moral challenges such as ending slavery: it’s going to take “courage, character and leadership” and needs to happen with unprecedented speed. Noting that the 20 years of Generation’s work had not moved the dial nearly far enough he quoted economist Rudiger Dornnbusch’s law: “change takes much longer to come than you expect, then happens faster than you had thought possible.” Let’s hope.
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Gore finished with his characteristic guarded optimism, comparing climate change to previous moral challenges such as ending slavery: it’s going to take ‘courage, character and leadership’ and needs to happen with unprecedented speed.
Sue Mathews, Mullum Trust
26 September 2023