Scott Morrison needs to take action on global warming or he will become a “victim of climate change,” said former Labor Victorian Prime Minister Steve Bracks.
Bracks, who chairs the $ 55 billion Cbus industry retirement fund, said the fires that have ravaged Australia have boosted community support for the action and asked the Morrison government to put a price on carbon.
“It really is in a sad position in Australia, where we are effectively seeing Australia’s corporations, industries, the financial sector and the companies that lead climate change and not the government,” he told Guardian Australia.
The fires, which have burned more than 10 million hectares, killed 28 people and covered Sydney and Melbourne with dangerous smoke, “made a big difference” to public sentiment about global warming.
“People’s experiences are so important, so I think there’s now a big appetite for effective climate action in Australia, and even the prime minister, I think, is beginning to recognize that and move in that direction, and that’s something well, “he said. said.
“If he doesn’t, I think he will be another victim of climate change in Australia.”
Bracks said Cbus had focused on environmental, social and government issues for approximately 10 years under its executive director, David Atkin, who announced his retirement on Wednesday.
Under Atkin’s leadership, Cbus has gone from being an organization with approximately $ 12 billion under management that, according to him, was a craft industry, to one of the nation’s largest funds.
Atkin, who will resign in six months after almost 13 years at work, said the fires had changed public sentiment about the weather.
“There is nothing like seeing the physical consequences: it can be seen in Melbourne, there is smoke everywhere,” he said.
The superfunds had “a really important role to play” in the fight against global heating.
“We are looking for companies in which we invest that have thought carefully about this, have performed their scenario tests, understand what their footprint is from a carbon perspective and are changing their business models to ensure that they can succeed in the future,” he said. “We will not support companies, as investors, if we believe they are being very short-term or are not taking that issue seriously enough.”
Cbus and other industry funds are always under pressure from activist organizations to dump their actions in fossil fuel companies and other large emitters.
But Atkin said that refusing to invest in an industry category was the wrong approach and Cbus sought to invest in companies with a strategy to decarbonize operations.
“We are not investing in companies that we do not trust all the time,” he said.
“We don’t have dinosaurs in our portfolio because we have already made that call. We believe that they will lose money, they will not make us money.”
Bracks said: “All the companies we invest in understand that they have to have a long-term sustainable future and that they must assess the risk of climate change within that.
“They know that there will be some stranded assets, particularly in power generation, if we don’t get the right economic environments for investment in generation in the future, so they are really taking the initiative and doing the work that the government should be doing.” .
In addition to pressing corporate Australia to take environmental, social and governance issues more seriously, even when serving as a member of a number of investor groups, Atkin also tested Cbus through two royal commissions.
The royal union commission, created by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott, after the 2013 elections criticized Cbus and Atkin for leaking personal information about the members of the fund to the construction union, before delivering confidential Cbus documents to other parts.
But Cbus went through the 2018 royal banking commission after assistant attorney Michael Hodge, QC, decided not to call any witnesses in the fund.
Instead, Hodge and the commissioner, Kenneth Hayne, held hearings that demolished the reputation of the for-profit sector, a result that embarrassed the government, which had included retirement in the terms of reference of the investigation in an attempt to embarrass the industry funds for their links with unions
“They were going to call us and in the end they didn’t call us and they were quite satisfied with the procedures we had, and that’s a good thing,” said Bracks.
“So we took that as a seal of approval, but more than that the royal commission turned out to be a great blessing for industry funds, and certainly in our fund we had something like $ 1 billion of additional net entries compared to the previous year during the period of the royal commission. “