Australia and Canada: new symbols of change?

KumooKDBusiness leaders need to be aware of new momentum in international politics that could make the transition to a low carbon economy unstoppable.

Last week I attended a briefing from Australia’s environment minister Greg Hunt (alongside my role as Global Head of KPMG’s Sustainability Services, I also lead KPMG Australia’s sustainability practice).

The message was very much that Australia intends to make a constructive contribution to global action on climate change.

Australia has made some significant announcements over a short time. For example, the country has ratified the second period of the Kyoto Protocol, a signal that it is participating seriously in the international process to cut carbon. It has also signed up to President Obama’s Mission Innovation and in doing so has committed to double investment in clean energy research within 5 years. Perhaps even more significantly, it has indicated that it is open to tightening the global target for global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and to supporting a goal of a carbon-neutral world.

The mood and direction of Australia’s actions are both striking and encouraging.

There are also positive messages coming from Canada. “Canada is back”, said the new Canadian PM Justin Trudeau on the opening day of COP21, committing his government to make climate change a top priority.

Both Canada and Australia’s commitments to join the ranks of the leaders, when added to the commitments of the two titans of global emissions – China and the US – can only add impetus to the emerging worldwide political will.

I remain realistic. There will be stumbling blocks along the way. Changes in democratically elected governments can result in sudden shifts of direction both ways. Disagreements remain over the respective responsibilities of developed and developing nations. But my sense is that the political momentum to create a global low carbon economy is at a tipping point and verging on unstoppable.

It’s a message that I will be carrying to the businesses I work with day-to-day. We are seeing a new generation of leaders who have no doubts about the science and have a personal conviction to take action.

Adrian King is KPMG’s Global Head of Sustainability Services. He leads key KPMG stakeholder relationships at a senior level including the UN Global Compact (UNGC), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). Follow Adrian on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AdrianKing_KPMG

Image: French President François Hollande greets Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, watched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres

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