Mike Cannon-Brookes has highlighted the “huge risk” to Australia if we don’t shift from coal power to renewable tech energy, while business icon Richard Branson is calling on Aussie politicians to “be brave enough” to do something about it.
Speaking at the ImpactX Summit Sydney this morning, the pair explored the economic risks and opportunities of sustainable energy, and the role tech founders and entrepreneurs have to play in finding the solutions.
“Australia has one of the largest economic opportunities in the world in the decarbonisation of the planet,” Atlassian founder, investor and philanthropist Mike Cannon-Brookes said in the session.
“We also have a huge risk.”
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Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of the effects of climate change, but also in terms of its economy.
A changing climate is damaging to the agriculture industry, for example, and a global shift away from fossil fuels will hit exports.
The world is moving away from coal consumption in particular, whether we like it or not, Cannon-Brookes said.
The key is to be honest with workers in industries under threat, finding new routes to employment in emerging industries.
“This can be a very positive thing for our economy,” he added.
“We have to get away from our ideological connection to fossil fuels in our economy … we can be an energy exporter, we can just do it in different ways.”
Australia has the land, the talent and the capital to become a “renewable energy superpower”, Cannon-Brookes added.
But if we don’t act quickly enough, that opportunity may well slip away.
Richard Branson’s climate optimism
Branson also weighed in on the Australian government’s lacklustre approach to renewables.
When asked how quickly he could see Australia transitioning away from coal power, he said you would have to ask the politicians in charge “whether they’re going to be brave enough just to do it”.
“It obviously has to be done,” he added.
“A good government in Australia would try to work out a way of creating jobs for all those people who are working in the coal industry.”
That said, Branson is cautiously optimistic about the future. We’ve seen something of a turning point in 2021, he noted, with people becoming more and more aware of the catastrophe we’re facing.
We’re also seeing a surge in tech founders and entrepreneurs putting their best foot forward to solve the many challenges.
“It’s tech entrepreneurs and other entrepreneurs who can help solve this problem,” he said.
“I’m optimistic, but there’s a hell of a lot of work to do. And we’re definitely behind the curve at the moment.”