Hitting the target: business tries to break the deadlock on climate


A convoy of ten semi-trailer trucks – carrying 33 tonnes of demountable buildings – are making the 357 kilometre journey from Sydney to the small heritage town Mogo, near Batemans Bay this morning.

The pop up mall – provided by ATCO chief executive Nancy Southern, who leads one of Canada's largest gas, electricity, construction and logistics companies – will help rebuild the village known for its zoo, which has been hit by biblical fires and floods.

The Canadian businesswoman, who will greet the convoy with Jennifer Westacott and Sir Peter Cosgrove for the business-led BizRebuild, is here for an Australia-Canada forum at which bushfires and climate have dominated the debate.

"The bushfires have just completely changed the discussion," says CEO of Energetics Mary Stewart, who advises our largest companies on climate risk strategies. Former CSIRO and AMP chairman Simon McKeon calls it "the disaster we may have had to have to move the debate along.”

Business leaders increasingly agree the bushfires have crytallised climate change as a practical risk, rather than an ideological debate.

The village of Mogo, badly hit by fires, now finds some of the houses that burnt down, are flooded by the local creek. Peter Rae

That was brought home on Thursday when Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe warned of "profound" financial implications and was recently spelt out by the banking royal commissioner, Kenneth Hayne, who said directors had a legal duty to act on climate change risk, include it in corporate strategies and report on it to shareholders.

The Business Council of Australia this week publicly backed independent politician Zali Steggall's proposed legislation for a zero net emissions target by 2050 and businesses, large and small, are falling into line.

The growing support has ignited a flickering hope business could help break the decade-long deadlock over climate change but tensions on both sides of politics remain febrile.

"There's a sense of 'ok, is this the direction we can all follow now' and people are calling for that direction," Westacott tells AFR Weekend.