2021 was a year of important progress on climate, even as the world continued to grapple with many challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow moved worldwide focus firmly to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, and to ratcheting up 2030 ambition to align with this long term target. Global attention on climate finance flows increased. Indonesia assumed the G20 presidency, focusing on sustainable finance, reducing deforestation and green recovery, and Australia set a national net zero target. Importantly, the global climate narrative shifted – moving from ‘if’ we reach net zero, to ‘how’ we can get there.
In 2021, Climateworks embraced and built on this positive momentum. We embedded the 1.5 degree ambition into the work of decision-makers, through our collaborations with governments, businesses and investors, across all of the countries and systems in which we work.
We worked directly with governments while they were setting net zero targets. In Indonesia, we provided input to the official statement which commits the country to reaching peak emissions by 2030, and net zero emissions by 2060 or sooner. In the Pacific, we led the development of the Kingdom of Tonga’s long-term low-emissions development strategy – its launch during COP26 demonstrated the power of leadership from a small island nation.
Meanwhile in Australia, with CSIRO, we developed the first economy-wide net zero scenarios for Australia’s energy grid manager, AEMO, including a 1.5 degree aligned ‘hydrogen superpower’ scenario, to guide the 2022 Integrated System Plan. Major banks and energy companies used our advice and scenarios to inform the development of their net zero planning, and others drew on our work for an awareness campaign in the lead-up to COP26, that Australia needed an ambitious 74 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Our State and Territory Climate Action report showed subnational targets translated to an estimated 37-42 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions Australia-wide by 2030, a greater figure than Australia’s 2030 commitment under the Paris agreement of 26-28 per cent. This was widely reported in the media in Australia and internationally, because it gave one of the first clear national pictures of net zero progress and potential.
Our collaboration with the Centre for Policy Development, Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Pollination brought together business leaders, including the Business Council of Australia, for dialogues on how climate and economic recovery could be tackled together and introduced new policy concepts which are now moving into implementation.
We continue to convene industry and finance organisations to accelerate action towards achieving net zero emissions in industrial supply chains by 2050. In 2021, our Australian Industry Energy Transitions Initiative showed existing and emerging technology solutions can address almost all emissions across five hard-to-abate industry supply chains, and that the transition will require significant investment, coordination and leadership.
In Southeast Asia, we collaborated to make the case for decarbonisation across ASEAN member states. Our work with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Jeffrey Sachs Center for Sustainable Development at Sunway University convened research teams from half of ASEAN to build an economic and technical case for ambitious decarbonisation.
Climateworks is about establishing self sustaining change. We are proud to report the first forward-looking green equities index which we developed with BNP Paribas – the Australian Climate Transition index – outperformed the market by more than seven percentage points in its first year (to October 2021). This index measures the top scoring companies on their current and future alignment to net zero emissions pathways, and is showing the market how to act on this and the benefits of doing so. We co-delivered executive education on climate change and business risk to over 450 bankers across half of the ‘big four’ banks.
Showing organisations what good looks like, when it comes to climate action, is increasingly important. We utilised two years of company assessments to establish four principles of ‘best practice’ for corporate net zero plans, embedding internationally recognised alignment with 1.5 degree pathways into the Australia context – a first. Our four principles of best practice are already shifting the dial, including in the energy sector, off the back of assessing the commitments of Australia’s 20 highest-emitting energy companies against Paris agreement goals.
With system change at the core of our strategy, Climateworks supports and enables the people, processes and structures that will create the greatest change in both physical systems – cities, industry, energy and food, land and oceans – and enabling systems – corporates, economies and finance.
In 2021 Climateworks grew from 55 to 75 staff as part of our strategy adopted in 2020 to scale up to resource the step-change needed in climate action to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. Hosted by Monash University, our still-growing team now operates from Jakarta, Perth and Canberra, alongside our headquarters in Melbourne, to service our teams working across Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Our audiences grew too – with strong interest across the region. Our collaboration with the ABC to ‘untangle the climate mess’ resulted in among the most powerful climate communications of the year, and attracted hundreds of thousands of interactions.
In 2022, we are updating our name from ClimateWorks Australia to Climateworks Centre, to recognise our already established team in Indonesia and the significant expansion of our work across Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Our mission remains to scale and accelerate action to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 within Australia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific; our name is now updated to acknowledge the geography of our work. Our strategy remains to hold the bar high and be a bridge between research and action. We act as trusted advisors, influencing decision-makers with the power to reduce emissions at scale, to achieve the system-level transitions required for net zero emissions.
We look forward to achieving this with you.