Making your money matter on climate change

Posted on 29 May 2020

Local resident, climate change expert and global activist Blair Palese is co-founder and former CEO of 350.org Australia and helped organise Australia’s national fossil fuel divestment campaign that’s been part of the global divestment movement to move money out of fossil fuels.

In this blog she shares her ideas on what you can do to make a difference with your cash and voice.

With the Royal Commission on Australia’s bushfires underway, a lot of us are thinking about climate change, what we can do about and how we even begin to think about its impact in the middle of the coronavirus challenges we are already facing. In a recent webinar in Australia, former UN climate negotiator and author Christiana Figueres said, “We don’t really have 10 years to turn around this climate crisis, it’s more like 18 months now, given the $20 trillion being injected into nations’ economies’ across the world.” Now more than ever, it’s clear the way that where we invest is critical to our future and achieving a safe climate.

Here’s the 350.org simple explanation of where we are on climate change:

The good news is that we do have the technology to turn climate change around if we act fast enough, with good reasons for hope:

  • Solar and wind energy are now cheaper than existing fossil fuels
  • The cost of renewable energy is now at its lowest in history
  • Affordable battery storage has been a game changer, making renewable energy available any time, not just when/where it’s generated
  • During the coronavirus lockdown, we’ve seen the biggest drop in greenhouse gas emissions in modern times - it can be done.

But to limit carbon emissions to ensure we keep the earth from warming more than 1.5 to 2 degrees C, we need to force a rapid shift from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives.

As of last month, more than US$15 trillion has been divested or pledged to be divested globally from coal, oil and gas. That effort has been led initially by universities, churches and community organisations, but more recently has seen trillions of dollars invested by progressive investment funds. Here in Australia, commitments from the ACT Government and 27 councils including the cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Perth along with the Uniting Church and universities such as UNSW and ANU are moving their investments away from fossil fuels.*

As an investor, bank account holder, insurance user and consumer, everyone has the power to act on climate change. We can support a shift from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives, and get behind climate-safe companies and options that are part of the solution. By taking action in this way, you are also protecting your own assets in a world that is rapidly changing due to climate change and its impacts.

Here’s how in six ways:

1. Choose a fossil free superfund

Australia now has superannuation fund options that are entirely fossil free. Find out how your superfund ranks on climate and investigate the options to move to a climate safe fund. It not only makes sense if you care about climate change, it may also protect you against your investments becoming stranded assets as countries and companies move out of fossil fuels. 

2. Choose a fossil-free bank and/or mortgage

The campaign to get Australian banks to divest from fossil fuels including projects like Queensland’s Adani coal mine, has been long and challenging but it has made a difference. The Commonweath Bank, NAB and Westpac are now all committed to move out of coal over the next 15 years. While that may seem like a long time, in truth, with three of the four major Australian banks on board, it sends a strong market signal that coal investment is over. That said, there are banks that are already 100% fossil free with no investment in coal, oil and gas, that are work considering. Check yours and others at Market Forces.

There are also a range of green home loan options that reward energy efficiency, renewable energy and other climate-friendly options, many that are quite beneficial to those taking action. Find out what’s on offer and consider taking one up or switching:

3. Choose an insurance company that won’t insure new fossil fuels

This year, QBE and IAG announced that they will no longer insure coal projects within the next 15 years. Again, while that may seem a long time off, it’s becoming harder for coal projects to find insurance and, with that pressure growing, it will be harder for projects to go forward. Learn more about the campaign to pressure insurance companies to get out of climate-destroying coal, oil and gas.

4. Choose renewable power for your home via solar power or via your energy supplier

A recent review of 7000 studies has shown that renewable electricity ranks in the top 5 things you can do to shrink your personal carbon footprint (see image below). Everyone in NSW can choose who they buy electricity from, so why not choose an energy company committed to clean energy? Check out the Green Electricity Guide for the lowdown on the top ranking electricity providers. 

If you do have a rooftop for solar power (and possibly batteries), it’s a better investment these days to buy solar panels than leaving your money in the bank. Visit Waverley Council’s partner organisation Australian Energy Foundation to get quotes from pre-vetted suppliers.

Learn more about how to choose a solar power system:

Source: Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options via Global CREDS study uncovers best ways to change consumption to cut carbon footprint

For those keen to get more actively involved:

5. Get climate active

There are so many great climate action groups in Australia, there’s bound to be one that would suit you. Have a search, join a meeting and see what the right fit is for you. But don’t wait. We need all kinds of climate change action and we need it right now.

Alternatively, you could become a shareholder activist and pressure companies to take action. Recent shareholder activism within Woodside and Rio Tinto has shown it can have a big impact. A number of organisations coordinate shareholder action putting forward resolutions forcing accountability and change from within such as the Australasia Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR).

6. Run for office

How many times have you said we need people who care about climate change in government? Step up and become a leader! Start where you feel comfortable such as your local council or state government or jump right into the federal deep end! 

Read these great articles to find out how:

Don’t wait! We don’t have time to waste for a safe climate. Don’t wait. Do one or several of the options above and talk about why you are taking action with your friends, family and co-workers. Share what you know and encourage others to take action too!

* Australian Local Government Fossil Fuel Divestment

DISCLAIMER

The information provided in this post/attached post does not constitute financial advice. The information is presented in order to inform people who may be may motivated by environmental concerns and are considering taking action based on those concerns.

The information and actions contained in this post/attached post do not account for any individual’s personal objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be used, relied upon, or treated as a substitute for specific professional advice.

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