In June 2015, an unprecedented alliance of major Australian business, union, research, environment and social groups - including The Climate Institute - launched a collective impact initiative outlining their views on what sound climate policy for Australia looks like.
"Unconstrained climate change would have serious economic, environmental and social impacts on Australia. These costs underpin our assessment of the need for action ... Our overarching aim is for Australia to play its fair part in international efforts to achieve this while maintaining and increasing its prosperity.
-- Goal of the Climate Roundtable as outlined in the joint principles.
Achieving this goal will require deep global emissions reductions, with most countries including Australia eventually reducing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero or below.
Avoiding unconstrained climate change will provide important benefits and opportunities to Australia ... Delayed, unpredictable and piecemeal action will increase the costs and challenge of achieving the goal."
The unprecedented alliance agreed on a set of policy guidelines by which to measure federal government climate policy. These were received with significant media coverage, and the impact of the joint statement continued to be felt months after.
What emerged through the Roundtable is not only a commitment to longer term objectives, but also an ongoing forum to explore policies and approaches to best achieve them.
Erwin Jackson, Deputy CEO of The Climate Institute and who led on the coordination, said: “For several years there had been ongoing conversations between the disparate and diverse groups but they had not formalised a shared vision. After a long period of instability and chopping and changing of climate policy, around mid-2014 there was no real plan to enable those on the business side to invest with certainty and manage carbon risk, or to provide those from the social services, environment and research sectors with a clear direction upon which to develop policies."
The Institute’s role was to assist in designing principles that were going to be effective but also, critically, could be and were clearly articulated. There had been many short-term conversations around 2020, but what is critical for success is policies framed in the longer term of avoiding 2°C of global warming and reaching net zero emissions.
The release of the joint principles was the culmination of about 10 months of work. It was critical because it sent a loud and clear message to government, and because it provided an
ongoing forum for the group members to explore policies and approaches to best achieve them.
Ai Group’s Principal National Adviser – Public Policy Tennant Reed said: “I think that we’ve already helped reframe the debate to some extent away from old divisions, whether they were sectoral or political, and more towards a recognition that there is a broadly shared agenda and a shared set of objectives.”
Having worked across a wide spectrum of organisations, The Climate Institute suspected that while it might not seem like it, in fact many of the groups that united under the Roundtable shared quite a bit of ground.
There has been a great deal of interest and engagement from members from all sides of politics, and from other organisations representing other constituencies not directly involved in the Roundtable.
Said Reed: “Many groups in society have legitimate needs and concerns that policy in this space has got to address and we can agree on a lot of the outline of how to get there. The detail of the specific architecture and the policies that hang off them is important and a high quality discussion that gets to that detail is important but understanding and agreeing at the outset what you’re aiming for is crucial. The Roundtable now has that.”