Sharan Burrow presenting (own photo)
Sharan Burrow presenting (own photo)

The City of Sydney “Net Zero Carbon by 2050” workshop demonstrated that there is no better time for carbon mitigation than the present.

The event byline, “harnessing the opportunities of a net zero emissions economy transition”, was explored through a mix of speakers and table discussion. All attendees were very senior business and sustainability leaders, the kind of star-studded lineup we have come to expect from City of Sydney events. Partnering with them in running the event was Sustainability Advantage, a program of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and The B Team, an association supporting aggressive corporate carbon reduction.

Two women stole the show: Sharan Burrow, President of the International Trade Union Council, and Monica Barone, CEO of the City of Sydney.

Sharan brought the concept of “just transition” to the net zero emissions discussion, for the first time I have seen before. Sharan’s passionate, knowledgeable and natural presentation talked about jobs for the new economy, supporting workers in the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy industries, and the importance of businesses and trade unions working together on these issues. The term “stranded workers” was particularly resonant for me. Where the concept of stranded assets in finance refers to assets becoming unusuable and worthless (such as a coal power plant), stranded workers refer to the labour force with skills and experiences irrelevant and worthless in the net zero emissions economy (such as a coal power plant designer).

Professor John Thwaites kicks off proceedings in the beautiful room at the Sydney Town Hall (own photo)
Professor John Thwaites kicks off proceedings in the beautiful room at the Sydney Town Hall (own photo)

Monica Barone, CEO of City of Sydney, brought the spirit of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group conferences to the group. At the C40’s, mayors and CEO’s do not align according to political philosophies, they are all united on putting their cities in the best positions possible to manage the climate change risks, and maximise the clean economy opportunities. Monica’s call to action ended the workshop on a most motivating note.

Other highlights:

Alice Cahill, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), talked about the “clear line of sight” now between global and NSW ambitions to mitigate carbon. Having been part of OEH during the beginning of the organisational change associated with this goal, I can attest that it has brought new purpose, motivation and energy to an already leading government department. I personally cannot wait to see more from the group of people that introduced NABERS and GreenPower to Australia, that event host Professor John Thwaites commended as the Australian leader in business resource productivity programs.

Chris Derksema, City of Sydney, spoke about the importance of Sydney to New South Wales and even Australia. Chris conveyed the City’s pride in having aggressive carbon targets, and its collaborative leadership with programs like CitySwitch and the Better Buildings Partnership.

Alice Cahill presenting (own photo)
Alice Cahill presenting (own photo)

Sam Mostyn, representing the Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development in this instance (although her always-inspiring bio of roles includes Board positions with Mirvac, Virgin and more), talked about its landmark report that found $12 trillion in business opportunities from working towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Anna Skarbek, ClimateWorks, shared the massive growth in organisations aspiring towards net zero now compared to 12 months ago. She also talked about their four pathways to decarbonisation study, and how it should be applied.

It was absolutely wonderful to be here, credit to all those involved!

"Net zero carbon by 2050" workshop brief (own photo)
“Net zero carbon by 2050” workshop brief (own photo)

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