Transcripts: Keynote speakers, Better Futures Forum 2022

Better Futures Forum

Ban Ki-moon, Former UN Secretary General, Better Futures Forum Keynote Speech

Tuesday 6 September 2022

It is my pleasure to join you again to deliver this address at the 2022 Better Futures Forum.

I speak to you today in my capacity as Deputy Chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders founded by Nelson Mandela who work together for peace, justice and human rights.

Though only a year has passed, so much has changed!

Climate change is not a partisan or party-political issue. Climate change is a scientific reality.

Greater emissions reductions are crucial for Australia to contribute to limiting the impacts of climate change such as floods, fires and droughts. These tragedies are becoming more frequent, less predictable, and more severe – globally, and across Australia itself.

I welcome the new Australian Government’s commitment to more ambitious climate action.

The Australian 2022 election results indicated that voters of all stripes support action on climate change. Therefore, I encourage all sides of politics to use this mandate to step up and ensure Australia is a leader on climate action. 

Some are lamenting a “lost decade” of climate action in Australia. I believe that rather than looking backwards, it is better that we focus on the future and what is possible in the years to come.

Australia has a crucial role to play in meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and in doing so can harness the economic benefits and opportunities afforded by green and renewable technologies and industries.

It is excellent that Prime Minister Albanese’s government has prioritised a Climate Change Bill to lock in new and improved climate ambition. This is a positive first step, and the step-up that the world has long been waiting for!

At a minimum the Australian Government needs to match the level of ambition for 2030 targets of the United States, the United Kingdom and other trading partners like the European Union and Japan, by at least halving its net emissions this decade.

That means building ambition into the Climate Change Bill 2022 so that the current target can regularly be revised upwards.

I also echo calls from Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific region for Canberra to re-join the Green Climate Fund and pull its weight in providing funding for poorer nations to undertake climate action. 

The climate crisis creates both enormous risks but also domestic and regional opportunities for Australia. The clean energy race has already begun, Australia needs to keep up!

I am pleased to join the new “Getting Asia to Net Zero” commission, which aims to work with Asian leaders to grasp this transition and accelerate it. Asia’s direction of travel is clear – and it will change Australia’s economic prospects. The region will continue to want Australia’s exports, but they now want and expect clean energy alternatives. 

The benefits are there if you act now and seize them. Your sun and wind are the envy of the world – Australia can become a renewable energy superpower, and drive investment into the regional industries of tomorrow, like renewable hydrogen and zero-emissions steel and aluminium.  

However, Australia is not there yet. Currently, Australia is missing out on opportunities to grow renewable energy production, and the tens of thousands of clean energy jobs that will bring. Greater access to renewable energy would also reduce the cost of living too.

So much has changed, but there is still so much to do. The climate crisis does not stand still, nor should our response to it.

I encourage you all to continue to do all you can to ensure a safe, just, better future for all, both here in Australia and across the whole world.

Thank you.”

Lord Adair Turner speaks to the Better Futures Forum from London: ‘Australia is sitting on a potential bonanza.’

6 September 2022

I’ve been asked to provide some perspective on the overall status, overall global progress in the energy transition. And of course, I’m doing that in the middle of an extraordinary tumultuous year. It’s been a tumultuous year in terms of the climate in itself.

In much of Europe, we have had truly historic temperatures, heatwaves and droughts. There have also been huge droughts in Korea, in parts of China. But in other parts of China we’ve had huge floods and we’ve had massive wildfires in California.

And all of those are clear evidence that, as the scientists predicted, the climate is changing under the impact of human-induced global warming. But what is quite startling is that the pace of change, the emergence of these extreme weather events is, if anything, faster than most of the climate models predicted.

At the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last November, the 193 members of the Paris Treaty committed to seek to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. And they agreed to some actions which make it more likely that we can achieve that limit.

But if you take professional expert estimates, for instance, those produced by the International Energy Agency, they believe that if you take all the commitments made at COP26 last November, and if all of them are committed in full, are delivered in full and on time, the world will warm by about 1.8 degrees centigrade this century with a significant probability that it could be significantly over two degrees.

Now, the weather effects we are seeing so far are being driven by global warming of just 1.1 degrees centigrade, and they will get worse for every additional 0.1 degree. So this should be a massive wake up call telling us that we have left it dangerously late to avoid the massive harm that climate change can produce across the world.

This year, of course, has also been tumultuous in the sense of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent turmoil in global energy markets. It has revealed to Europe, and in particular to Germany, but also to parts of Eastern Europe, a truly dangerous reliance on piped Russian gas. It has driven LNG prices up across the world and therefore the costs of electricity generated from gas, which have gone to truly dramatic levels, in Australia as well as in Europe.

And it has provoked fears that there will be a setback to global climate action as countries focus on the short term challenge of energy security. There’s some people arguing that we just don’t have the luxury of dealing simultaneously with the long term climate challenge. 

And it’s true that in the short term, the impact of this crisis on emissions will be bad.

There are, for instance, several European countries which have during this summer increased coal-based power generation to replace hugely expensive or simply unavailable gas. But despite these negatives, I think it’s also clear that the economic case for a rapid energy transition has become still more compelling. And also that in several ways the Ukraine crisis is going to accelerate the pace of the energy transition.

European and UK wholesale electricity prices are now, in most cases across Europe, above $200 per megawatt hour, and in some markets they are reaching $400 per megawatt hour, versus about 50 in 2020. But look at the latest UK offshore wind auction, and that’s been one at a price well below $50 per megawatt hour. And the UK has increased its 2030 target for offshore wind from 40 gigawatts to 50 gigawatts. So amid this crisis, we are aware that offshore wind is cheap and that we’ve got lots of it.

The European Union, meanwhile, has reinforced its policies on energy efficiency and renewable energy development, and I think that makes it absolutely certain, not only that Europe in 2030 will be importing zero Russian gas – that is the aim and I think Europe will achieve that probably by about 2026 – but also will be consuming significantly less gas in total than it does today. And as a result, compared with where we were in January this year, I think it’s significantly more likely that the EU will now meet its 2030 target of achieving a 55% emissions reductions versus the 1990 level.

Meanwhile, public policies and targets for green hydrogen in particular have been dramatically strengthened, and so too, have private company ambitions. Already, by last year, our analysis at the Energy Transition Commission had suggested that the global steel industry would move away from the traditional coking coal blast furnace far faster than seemed likely five years back. And we had already produced projections that suggested that coking coal demand, metallurgical coal demand, as it’s sometimes called, would fall 85% by 2050. But until this year, several major steel companies thought that the first step in that transition might entail using methane in direct iron reduction plants.

But many are now dumping those transition plans in the face of high gas prices and going straight to green hydrogen based production. As gas prices have soared and as prospects for green hydrogen cost reduction have dramatically improved. And it is quite startling how the prospects for green hydrogen have continued to progress so fast this year.

There in Australia, Fortescue Future Industries plans to produce green hydrogen at below $2 per kg well before 2030. But go to India, and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries says that he is targeting below, down to $1 per kg. But the key point is that at any price below $2 per kg, that will unleash a massive new green hydrogen industry, with major application not only in steel production, but in ammonia for fertiliser, ammonia to be burnt in ship engines, in chemicals production and synthetic jet fuel.

Where, again, the recent report put out by the Energy Transition Commission sees a far more rapid progress in that than we would have imagined five years ago. So we are seeing continued technological and cost reduction progress. But alongside that, recent public policy developments have been strongly positive in two very important countries.

The first is the United States, where climate related measures within the Inflation Reduction Act are huge, and until three years ago, were unexpected. We have had the process of the climate bill being rejected and then there was an unexpected turnaround three weeks ago. This is a major game changer and provides massive financial support for the key technology developments and deployments which will bring the US, I think, very close to meeting its target of a 50% emissions reduction by 2030.

The second major country which took a step forward was of course Australia, where the climate change bill seeks to embed in law your commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with zero with emissions down 43% by 2030.

Those objectives are clearly attainable and I hope indeed that they might be strengthened still further in the coming years as Australia seizes its huge opportunity to be a leader in low cost renewable power and green hydrogen.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Australia’s greatest natural resource is not coal but sun shining, sunshine falling on a massive land area. I remember when I first came to Australia I’d worked that out in about half an hour. You just look up at the sky and it’s obvious.

If you cover just one thousandth of the land area of Australia in solar panels, Australia could produce 500 terawatt hours of completely green electricity, twice its current production. If you made that two thousandths of a percent, two thousandths of the land area, so a 0.2 of 1%.

In addition to meeting all current electricity demands, Australia could produce about 17 million tonnes a year of green hydrogen, which at $1.50 per kilogram would be worth $36 billion per year, just marginally below total 2021 Australian coal exports. And that’s before you consider massive wind resources as well.

So let’s be clear, in this world of the energy transition, Australia is sitting on a potential bonanza. And Australia’s new political direction is not just a hugely important contribution to the global fight against climate change, but a massive economic opportunity. I hope to have the opportunity next year – I’m planning in about January of coming to discuss these issues with many people in Australia in person.

But for now, let me just wish you a very successful set of discussions at your conference. Thank you very much.

Lord Adair Turner, Chair, Global Energy Transition Commission, delivered an unabridged version of this speech remotely to the Better Futures Forum at UNSW Canberra on Tuesday 6 September.

Laurence Tubiana speaks to the Better Futures Forum from Europe: ‘The new NDC from Australia is a powerful clarion call’

6 September 2022

The new Australian government’s commitment to cooperative climate action is so important.

It’s a vital reminder that when citizens are clear about the climate crisis and mobilized against it, and feel they have agency, then they can do anything. Every action you have taken has helped get to this point.

You have built this coalition. You have shaped this popular mandate.

So where do we go from here? I am very pleased to see an enhanced NDC already. It’s a very positive first step, especially so early into the new term. But we all have a long way to go, and little time to ramp up. Australia too has a long way to go. The new NDC is welcome, but remains insufficiently aligned with 1.5C and with its fair share. Of course, there is good and ambitious work happening every day in your states and territories.

You have communities and companies that are showing the way. The urgency means we have to pull every lever, call upon every actor, it’s the only way to meet the Paris goals. And I know you have the potential to thrive alongside the renewed leadership at the federal level.

In some ways, the challenge ahead of you now is more daunting: making this moment count.

You are at the end of a lost decade, for the coal to clean transition. Australia has a chance to become a renewable energy superpower in solar manufacturing, in green hydrogen, in green steel, and more!

How do you get there? I am sure you are already working hard towards this goal. But let me just conclude with a perspective from abroad and with a very difficult COP27ahead of us in Egypt in November. The road to 2050 will take us through many difficult summits. That’s why the 2050 goal, and the roadmap through 2030, is so important.

In Europe, the Green Deal is helping us do this. Australia’s friends want to see a whole-of-Australia plan, one that eliminates harmful subsidies, that fully embraces renewables solutions for energy and transport, starting now, through 2030, and to your 2050 target.

Finally, let’s acknowledge the multilateral space is deeply strained. We could not have done the Paris Agreement in 2022. But again: no-one said it would be easy. We build climate action on good days and bad days. Building on the momentum of the new NDC, COP27 is one of the stages where you can send the signals that will help protect climate diplomacy especially at the most difficult times to keep building global momentum for emissions reductions and find those areas of cooperation and trust to make the world safer, and spare us the kinds of impacts Australia, France, and every region is already feeling.

At a COP where, on top of Loss & Damage and the Adaptation Goal, the finance debate promises to be fierce, and where wealthy countries still fall short of their promises, I hope Australia will lead the line to offer a new basis of trust: that means, working towards the $100 billion goal, the doubling of adaptation finance, and recommitting to its fair contribution to the world’s climate finance needs. In this sense, the new NDC from Australia is a powerful clarion call, a milestone to build on.

That alone is reason to be hopeful. Let’s keep going. I believe in you!

Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation (ECF), architect of Paris Climate Agreement delivered an unabridged version of this speech remotely to the Better Futures Forum at UNSW Canberra on Tuesday 6 September.

Dr Ian Fry speaks to the Better Futures Forum: ‘We need to establish an international human rights tribunal to hold accountable governments, business and financial institutions for their ongoing investments in fossil fuels’

We are faced with a global crisis in the name of climate change. Throughout the world, the human rights are being negatively impacted and violated as a consequence of climate change. For many millions, climate change constitutes a serious threat to the ability of present and future generations to enjoy the right to life.

There is an enormous injustice being manifested by developed economies against the poorest and least able to cope. Tragically there remains a huge disparity in effort and a lack of commitment by States who have been the primary historical contributors of GHG emissions, leading to the negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights.

The negative impacts of failing to reduce GHG emissions is disproportionately felt by persons and communities who are already in a disadvantageous situation. In 2019, the world’s major CO2 emitters–China, USA, India, the EU27+ UK, Russia and Japan–together emitted 67 per cent of total fossil CO2. The G20 members accounting for78 per cent emissions over the last decade.

Collectively, the G20 members are not on track to achieve their unconditional NDC commitments based on pre-COVID-19 projections. Five G20 members are projected to fall short and therefore require further action (Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Republic of Korea and USA).

This is despite recent announcements by Australia and the US. Their actions are simply not enough. Australia cannot continue to feed the world with fossil fuels. The impacts of the lack of action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be put into dollar terms. It has been estimated that the United States alone, has inflicted more than $1.9 trillion in damage to other countries from the effects of its GHG emissions. This puts the US ahead of China, currently the world’s leading emitter, Russian, India and Brazil as the next largest contributors to global economic damage through their emissions. The estimated costs of the emissions by US, China, Russian, India and Brazil total of $6trillion in losses worldwide, or about 11 per cent of annual global GDP, since 1990.

While the costs of climate change are growing dramatically the global economy is driving in the opposite direction. Studies suggest that subsidies for fossil fuels is estimated to be around $500 billion annually. This has to stop. We cannot afford to subsidise industries that are causing so much damage to the livelihoods of people around the world.

The UN Secretary General stated in 2022 that high emitting governments and corporations are not just turning a blind eye, they are adding fuel to the flames. Apart from economic losses there are some losses that cannot be easily quantified in monetary terms. For instance, about 3.3 billion people are living in countries with high human vulnerability to climate change.

Analysis by the International Federation of the Red Cross found that 97.6million people were affected by climate-and weather-related disasters in 2019. By 2050, the number of people at risk of floods will increase from its current level of 1.2billion to 1.6 billion. In the early to mid-2010s, 1.9 billion people, or 27 per cent of the global population, lived in potential severely water-scarce areas. In 2050, this number will increase to 2.7 to 3.2 billion people. Citing initial reports, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 12,000 refugees were affected by the heavy rainfall while an estimated 2,500 shelters have been damaged or destroyed. These statistics are hard to process. The scale of the problem already being faced by people around the world is staggering.

If we drill deeper into these statistics were find some concerning trends. There is an alarming gender dimension to the impacts of climate change, For instance, girls are more likely to be pulled from school to perform household chores, such as eldercare, fetching water and cooking, when households are affected by climate change stresses. The intersection of gender with race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, Indigenous identity, age, disability, income, migrant status, and geographical location often compound vulnerability to climate change impacts, exacerbate inequity and create further injustice.

Indigenous Peoples are right at the forefront of climate change impacts. I have met with Indigenous Peoples from the Amazon, the Arctic, Central American, South East Asia, North America, Russia, Africa and Australia and it very clear that Indigenous Peoples are at the forefront of climate change impacts. Their rights to existence must be protected. But these people are not just victims they are custodians of knowledge on how to manage the planet. It is time we listened to these people.

So what can be done? What is the better future we can create to address the climate change emergency that is confronting us? In my report to the UN General Assembly in October, I will be proposing a number of actions. Most of these have come from suggestion based on my consultations I have held with UN Agencies, governments and civil society organisations. The following are a few of these suggestions. These can be put into three categories:

  1. Greater mitigation action
  2. Addressing loss and damage
  3. Increasing participation

On greater mitigation action we need urgent action to ramp up commitments. We need to call for a Head of State Mitigation Commitment Forum to dramatically enhance commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This could be done as part of the UN Secretary Generals Summit of the Future conference next year.

We need to establish an international human rights tribunal to hold accountable governments, business and financial institutions for their ongoing investments in fossil fuels and carbon intensive industries and the related human rights effects that such investments invoke.

We need to establish a Loss and Damage Finance Facility. I am suggesting that this be resolved by the UN General Assembly, rather than the COP and that the UN Secretary General establish a consultative group of finance experts to define the modalities and rules for the operation for this Fund.

We need to create a redress and grievance mechanism to allow vulnerable communities to seek recourse for damages incurred and include legal measures for determining criminal, civil or administrative liability and provide comprehensive restitution and guarantee of non-repetition.

For the upcoming COP, I suggest that Parties pass an omnibus decision that allows for full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and civil society organisations in decision making processes at all levels of the COP process.

Last night I spoke with young people from the Youth Negotiators Academy and they impressed upon me the need for the voice of youth directly engaged in climate change negotiations. Other youth representatives I have met have called for the COP should also establish of a Youth Advisory Committee on Loss and Damage. I strongly support this. Indigenous youth must be part of this Committee. The COP should also establish a process to revision and dramatically improve the Gender Action Plan. I have spoken to the COP Presidency about this and have encouraged the Presidency to initiate a program to revise the Gender Action Plan. I have a group of students helping me look and this plan and make suggestions for its improvement.

So these are a few suggestions for action. We must act urgently and realise the climate change emergency that is confronting us. I hope you will use this conference to come forward with further ideas and actions.

Dr Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate chang, delivered an unabridged version of this speech remotely to the Better Futures Forum at UNSW Canberra on Tuesday 6 September.