Wei Sue, Climateworks Centre’s Head of Strategy, discusses the importance of a strategic approach to system change, the big opportunities for decarbonisation in our region, and scuba diving.

 You’ve worked across different roles at Climateworks – what drew you to the Head of Strategy role?

I’ve worn more than a couple of different hats at Climateworks but ‘Head of Strategy’ caught my full attention. With so many talented individuals working here, the opportunity to progress to an executive role was a big deal.

Wei Sue smiles. Green background.
Wei Sue

Initially, the role was structured a little differently. But when ‘strategy’ was formally added to the title, I saw an opportunity to consolidate all my roles – from analysis through to project management and then working with delivery teams.

Leading on strategy allows me to contribute a range of skills to be more impactful, greater than the sum of the parts.

Why is a strategic approach so important to our work?

The systems we work in cover nearly, if not all, parts of the economy where biggest changes are needed.

But we also have limited resources and time to reach net zero at the speed and scale required. So our strategic approach acknowledges that we can’t do everything, and we can’t work with everyone. 

I think of it like a venn diagram. To design our strategy we ask what kind of change will have the biggest impact: what are the leverage points for self sustaining change, who are the biggest decision makers who need to be behind some of these changes, then what are the most urgent changes needed now – and what are the ones we need to set up now so they happen down the road? 

Action on climate seems to be ramping up significantly. Where do you see the big opportunities for our region’s decarbonisation journey right now?

Regionally, our growing work in Indonesia and the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions is a reflection of our maturing presence outside Australia.

Having invested time and years to build trust and relationships locally, we are starting to have the right ingredients in place. But we are newer to these regions, so this is still very much about solidifying relationships and helping jurisdictions with tailored advice and asking what they need.

For Australia right now, the new federal government has definitely given people a lot of wind under their wings. And it coincides with Climateworks updating our pathways work to show what a 1.5 degree Celsius trajectory looks like.

So now is the perfect opportunity to translate all our preparatory work into actions as the rubber hits the road. Federal, state and territory governments are now pretty aligned that 1.5°C is what we should be going for: so we can help with what type of technology, what sorts of policies will that require.

We’ve also invested so much into working with key decision makers, building inside track and constructive relationships, helping us to help them understand what good looks like. And these decision makers are now coming to us saying they’re convinced and ready, so what do they need to do?

One a personal level, what is potentially exciting about the future? 

We’ve now rebranded as a regional organisation acknowledging our growth and potential but we have yet to realise the synergies of fully operating as a regional organisation.

Wei Sue poses next to a seal during a diving trip in the Galapagos. (Supplied)

For example, we know Australia has an abundance of renewable resources if harnessed appropriately and that we could continue to be a major exporter of clean energy. Meanwhile we also know our closest neighbours are currently experiencing rapid growth, so what do they need? Energy! 

Energy security is a massive issue in many parts of Southeast Asia, so there’s an enormous opportunity here for Australia to support the region as it meets its rising energy needs without locking in fossil fuels, which have historically been the easy investment to make. The risk right now is that Southeast Asia could end up locking in more coal plants and fossil fuel sources.

Yet we have all this renewable energy right here. What if we could demonstrate to investors here in Australia that there is this unmet demand from our neighbours – this could translate to them realising wow, that’s a lot of kilowatt hours in demand right there – and provide investors with certainty for demand.

Such ideas could help accelerate Southeast Asia’s clean energy transition. We’re not there yet – but personally, I think we should do it!

Regarding another passion: You’re also an experienced scuba diver can you tell us about one of your best dives so far?

It’s hard to pick a favourite, but Galapagos is definitely up there.

It was just so different. You see marine iguanas there, which you don’t see anywhere else. It was also the first time I saw hammerhead sharks and mola mola (ocean sunfish). 

Wei saw marine iguanas while diving in Galapagos. (Supplied)

Galapagos actually gets two major cross currents from different systems, which you really experience when you’re underwater: those currents were the strongest I’ve ever been in and make diving quite challenging.

But I found it beautiful that this is also the reason for the Galapagos’ flourishing biodiversity – good things come from challenging conditions. 

Thanks for the fascinating chat, Wei.

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