Political Carbon Lies: what should my business do?

Our Prime Minister is lying. Our Environment Minister is lying.  They are both deliberately misinforming the public about climate change costs, the scope of the challenge, international action and the opportunities that come with action. 

On the other hand, so what. Margaret Mead once said "Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals.”

This post explores both of these ideas. 

First up, our Prime Minister/Environment Minister told us on Monday that repealing the price on carbon (which they misrepresent as a carbon tax) would save the average family  $550. ABC Fact Check declared this "outdated" and suggested the figure would be more like $134. The ABS said it's impossible to measure and this independent report said removing the carbon price is more likely to make bills go up.

But none of the media reports mentioned the elephant in the room. The whole point of putting a price on carbon is to create a market mechanism to change our behaviour. Post the carbon price national emissions dropped 4.7% compared to the year before.  The scope for reducing emissions is huge. A third of the average Australian power bill (around $1800) is wasted. That's $600 per household that a change in behaviour would save. And why stop at saving $600? The same year that the carbon price was implemented we passed one million household solar systems installed in Australia. That's 10% of Aussie homes. Once these systems are paid off in five years, these million homes will pay next to nothing for power into the future. Climate action saves money, unless we refuse to change: then it apparently costs us $134 a year. Woop de doo. Incidentally, Australians spend the same amount of money on alcohol as household power bills. 

And then there is the future cost of climate change. The 2006 Stern Review suggested that we can collectively pay now at 1% of global GDP to fix the climate or we can pay 20% later. Or we can not pay and end civilisation sometime later this century as we head 4-6 degrees warmer, sea levels rise a meter, new strains of disease emerge, extreme weather events abound and social, then political unrest and conflict follow.

Our current government is not only lying, they are attempting to be the first country in the world to remove a carbon price. They are also abolishing every other national climate measure that there is. They abolished the Climate Commission (the people paid to reestablish it) and want to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation  (an almost profitable fund to boost renewables) and "review" the Renewable Energy Target. Their "Direct Action" policy amounts to paying poor people to plant trees.

We have basically elected a front group for the fossil fuel industry.

With the release of the latest climate science the world is now moving fast. China will have a carbon price by 2020, the USA will reduce emissions 20% by 2020 and over 30 other countries already have a market mechanism in place to reduce emissions.

So what do we do at the business level? The entire world is grasping the problem and moving to reduce it. Our government is going backwards. This is where the Marg Mead quote above comes into this. We have to do it ourselves. We have a truism to help us: Done properly, reducing carbon SAVES money. If homes and businesses reduce their power bill and fuel bill they save money. 

Businesses I work with are always amazed at the savings given the political and media discussion about the "costs". One client reduced the power bill at 2 sites by 12% in a year without spending anything, by changing behaviour. That's more than twice the national 2020 carbon reduction target. Another large client changed every light bulb in a huge building to LED and dropped the power bill by 10%, so impressing the bean counters that they are rolling the program out Australia wide. A manufacturing client reduced the power bills in their stores around Australia by 15% in a year, saving tens of thousands of dollars. VECCI have found that small businesses in their Grow Me The Money sustainability program save an average $7000.

And the savings don't just stop at the power bill. Amory Lovins once said that the sustainability business is the only one in town where you notice $50 on the floor of your business, you bend down to pick it up and there is $100 underneath. Because many of the answers are cultural, by highlighting them and working through the solutions there are often other safety, OH&S and productivity savings that come along for the ride. The LED bulbs mentioned above also reduced globe maintenance costs, dust issues and poorly lit areas: not bad side effects for a health organisation. 

We all need to take control of our future, our power bill and the direction of our business. Our business leaders need a crash course in sustainability and organisational change, our Green Teams need a crash course in sustainability behaviour change and action planning and staff need to help identify new cleaner ways of working and go with the change. 

So how do I recommend you improve your business in the new economy? Leap onto the path to sustainability and save money, reduce waste and pollution, increase market share, help create history, improve your workplace culture, increase productivity, avoid fines, lead your industry, win awards and feel good. Globally, organisations are re-imagining themselves to exist healthily within the natural systems and cycles on the planet. The possibilities are endless and wonderful. For business, for society, for ecology.

And here's a final prediction for you. If the front group for fossil fuels masquerading as our government succeed in shutting down our climate measures, then they'll be back within a decade. The future is inevitable. The hit on our economic competitiveness and our reputation may take a while longer to recover however. Imagine trying to sell coal in 2030: It will be like trying to sell horses and carts, cassette tapes or typewriters. The world will have moved on.