Al Gore is a well-known name around the world, and especially so in environmental circles. On June 3rd, I was fortunate enough to attend a session with Al Gore at the Westin Hotel in Sydney. The session was called ‘A Path to Zero Carbon’, and I was there at the invitation of HESTA. As you might imagine, from an event that was hsoted by an industry super fund, there was a real focus on the need for sustainable investment and sustainabile growth over the long term.
The argument that Gore made was persuasive and carefully constructed. He began by sharing a brief range of statistics and news events from around the world highlighting the growing dangers of climate change. THis ranged from extreme weather events in places like India and Iran - but also AUstralia, to increasing temperatures and the economic costs of these. He connected the ‘rain bombs’ that appear more and more common with the increasing severity and duration of droughts. It was pretty confronting stuff - and the mood in the room was sombre.
However, Gore then transitioned smoothly to his next point - which was that these dangers and challenges provide us with opportunities, and they are the kinds of opportunities that Super funds may very well be interested in. Gore argued that we need to move past a desire for unfettered growth in economic terms, and instead embrace sustainable growth. And in this area, he suggests, there are significant opportunities. In this section of the presentation, he made the case that, in terms of new energy production, it is now more cost-effective to establish renewable sources of energy than use coal or other fossil fuels. In fact, Gore argued, this is already happening - for example, Germany has days where they use green energy entirely. Other countries around the world embracing these new forms of technology - on a domestic and industrial level. Some of the fastest growing occupations in the US are solar and wind power technicians. And, by virtue of its location and climate, Australia is in a fantastic position to capitalise on this trend - especially in terms of solar energy. When considered like this, Gore argued that it doesn’t make sense to not invest in renewable energy.
The final session was a Q and A. There were some thought provoking questions from audience members. In particular, Gore was critical of the deicsion to develop the Adani mine, and also questioned the utility of having so much of the media in Australia and the US dominate by one owner. He suggested that the solution to this might be found in social media - but he was quick to point out that some platforms, such as Facebook, haven’t necessarily lived up to their promise.
Al Gore finished on a hopeful note, reminding everyone that hope is a form of renewable energy!