20:20 Visions: Creating a Climate for a Super Future

The City of Sydney launched its C40 Women4Climate Mentorship Program in May, with Mayor Clover Moore stating “Climate action is the City of Sydney’s top priority”, as reflected in the City’s 2030 Strategy and Climate Emergency declaration.

Ahead of the Global Climate Strike called for 20 September, the program’s 20 mentees are taking the opportunity to share their vision for the project they’ll present at the global W4C event in Sydney in March 2020 and their view on climate activism.

An extract of this was first published in The Fifth Estate on 3 September – thanks to Tina Perinotto, Managing Editor & Founder, and Jillian’s mentor. 

Jillian Reid, Senior Responsible Investment Specialist at Mercer

Creating a Climate for a Super Future

MY VISION

Millions of pension fund members in Australia (called superannuation or ‘super’ funds locally) together invest $2.7 trillion, making each member a part owner in Australian buildings, companies and infrastructure assets. My vision is to communicate the interdependence of people, planet and prosperity. That aligning our economy with a safe climate and a sustainable future is in our best interests, both as people who live here and as investors. If we want a ‘strong economy’, we need to ensure the financial wealth we generate also ensures well-being. If that message could resonate, super funds, companies and governments who make sustainability standard would be rewarded, and those who are falling behind would be more clearly encouraged to catch up.

MY PROJECT

Typically, economic actors are listed as government, the private sector and civil society, forgetting the super funds that span all three. Australian funds invest across the whole economy, for the long-term on behalf of individuals. However, many members don’t have a good understanding of the process or appreciate that their investments make them part owners in: the many buildings we work in or pass every day; the largest 300 companies listed on the Australian stock exchange; and the infrastructure that keeps our lights on and transports our food. Members may also not appreciate how climate change could affect the risks and returns for those investments.

‘The City’ is a great way to tangibly illustrate how we as members are part owners of where we live, work and visit and how it is mutually beneficial for us as residents and investors to act on climate change. There are already many exciting examples of how we can transition to a net zero carbon economy, create resilience in our physical environment, and minimise water use and unnecessary waste - proving we no longer need to make outdated binary choices between our economy and our environment.   

IMPORTANCE OF CITIES

This vision is consistent with the ambitions of the 2015 Paris Agreement; with the UN Sustainable Development Goals; and with the ambitions of the 94 cities who have committed to bold climate action in the C40 coalition. Cities contend with the daily lived realities for people, the logistics of reducing emissions and waste and delivering on an increased demand for services. They’re also less constrained by the geopolitics and industry sector lobbying that seem to have sent the Australian Federal Government spiralling into ever less effective circles for a decade.

The City of Sydney, the Better Buildings Partnership (the major commercial property owners in Sydney), and the NSW State Government, along with many other cities and state governments and companies, have committed to transition away from fossil fuels and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. They have also committed to climate resilience objectives to address the natural catastrophe risks and water shortages we will inevitably face. The Investor Group on Climate Change for Australia and New Zealand, representing super funds and investment managers, have committed to the same goals, titling their latest strategy document “Investing for a Climate Resilient Net Zero Emissions Economy”. Efforts will be focused on these goals by all these entities, while continuing to seek policy alignment from the Federal Government to support the pace of change required. 

MY VIEW ON THE CLIMATE STRIKE

In researching and co-authoring Mercer’s two globally recognised reports – Investing in a Time of Climate Change (2015) and The Sequel (2019) -  I’ve become painfully aware that we’re in crisis. We have ten years to transform how we operate and avoid moving outside the realm of 150,000 years of human experience in the next 30 years.

Taking to the streets is not the preferred approach of us ‘office types’, those more comfortable writing reports in measured tones. However, a few hours of solidarity on the streets is important to re-energise and re-engage when people are feeling a need for both ‘outrage and optimism’. The 2017 Women’s March in London with 150,000 people is an experience I will never forget - home-made banners and smiles between strangers ‘demonstrating’ their concern in a shared public space.

On the 20th, the students are again leading the way in speaking out, but have asked us to walk with them. I’ll be taking time to show them there are adults taking climate change and climate justice very seriously in our professional and personal capacity. I’m privileged to work in a flexible environment, but whatever your work schedule please step up and step out with the students however you can to help make our vision a reality.

“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”