The CEOs from three of Australia’s three biggest companies – CommBank’s Matt Comyn, Telstra’s Vicki Brady and Qantas’ Alan Joyce – opened the day’s panel events and explained the responsibility each had to help drive the transition. They said Australia has enormous potential to lead the world in creating the renewable energy solutions of the future thanks to its land mass, innovative technology and abundant natural resources. What’s needed now is the right policy settings and incentives for businesses to bolster their efforts to decarbonise.
Driving growth in the circular economy
Some 84% of plastics are sent to landfill in Australia and we consume a million tonnes of single-use plastic each year. And did you know that e-waste is our fastest growing waste category? Circular Australia, Bega Cheese, Winning Group and Pact Group discussed the crucial role of the circular economy in Australia’s transition. They urged government, business and consumers to work together to replace the take, make, waste model – in products like single use plastics – and identify the value opportunities in recycling.
Combatting climate change through nature-based solutions in agriculture
All three panellists on the regenerative agriculture session spoke about the need to reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss. The environment needs to go on the balance sheet, said RCS Australia founding director Terry McCosker – and farmers can top up their income with carbon credits, biodiversity credits, and by valuing natural capital.
Mining for the transition
This panel teased out the significant role mining will play in enabling the transition. Tackling climate change requires multiple levers, including natural resources. Miners are embracing their role as responsible corporates: they are managing biodiversity, building diversity into the workforce, working on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues along their supply chain and recognising the financial and reputational cost of not taking action to decarbonise. However, greater investment is urgently needed to mine battery metals, the metals of the next century, not just the next decade – resources like lithium, copper and cobalt in which Australia is a leading global producer.
Expanding Indigenous engagement
This session focused on the role traditional owners can play in preserving country. The audience heard from Indigenous advocate and elder Marcus Yam, who uses virtual reality software to help predict and manage controlled burns. Marcus said that carbon burning regenerates the land, helps indigenous owners connect with country, and brings animals back to their natural habitat.
Maximising impact through investment
Three panellists working in Australia’s institutional investment sector participated in a impact investment panel moderated by CommBank Group Executive Institutional Banking & Markets Andrew Hinchliff and agreed that investing for a positive impact doesn’t mean investors have to sacrifice returns. They also spoke about the gaps that exist in ESG data used by fund managers to assess impact – but agreed those ‘holes’ shouldn’t be used as an excuse to delay investing for positive change. They also spoke about the value of active engagement with the management teams of their investments to drive sustainability targets.
This session was held in the aptly named Greenhouse, a theatre decked out in flora where the audience listened to birdsong and the session through headphones, creating a truly immersive experience. Panellists put companies on notice that their buildings are a statement about their commitment to sustainability. Architect Lotte Baert and leaders from LendLease and the Building Council of Australia discussed how technology and innovative design are driving decarbonisation in construction – from the materials used in the skin of a building to creating a removable space within an existing structure. The possibilities are endless!
Creating value through carbon neutrality
A panel on carbon markets highlighted their inherent complexity due to multiple jurisdictions and regulatory environments, as well as the terminology. But one thing is clear – there are significant opportunities in the market once the challenges of carbon credit sourcing, governance and transparency are satisfied. Businesses that buy carbon credits must also commit to their own transition journey. Queensland cattle farmer Robert Mackenzie stole the stage, as he explained the story behind the carbon credits offered by his family’s near-neutral cattle station and beef export business.
Redefining transportation with zero emissions vehicles
Three experts from the commercial transport sector spoke about the challenges of transitioning fleets to zero emission vehicles. Electric trucks aren’t around the corner in Australia, said Volvo’s Paul Illmer – they’re here now. Renewable diesel (similar to biodiesel) is also available now – but hydrogen powered trucks are further off. The biggest challenges are developing the infrastructure for these new vehicles and managing the transition with drivers.
Keynote speaker Brian Cox
Famed physicist Professor Brian Cox took the audience through a whirlwind tour of the universe, black holes, quantum computing and the emergence of life to bring the Momentum conference to an inspiring close. One of his key points was that scientific discoveries often lead to unexpected applications – for instance, Stephen Hawking’s work on black holes led to the development of quantum computing. And while there is no evidence (yet) of life on other planets, this should inspire us to preserve the rich biodiversity of our planet – since we could be the only ‘meaning’ in our galaxy, or even the universe.
To explore all the sessions from CommBank Momentum 2022, visit Momentum.
To learn more from leading industry experts about Australia’s transition to a net-zero economy, head to CommBank Foresight™ – insights for future-facing businesses.