Emissions measures would be first to face chop if economy weakens, say business

Nearly half of Australian businesses expect to reduce investment in cutting greenhouse gas emissions if economic conditions get worse, a survey shows.

Feb 16, 2024, updated Feb 16, 2024
A new report says emissions are out of control with no peak yet in sight. (Photo: ABC)

A new report says emissions are out of control with no peak yet in sight. (Photo: ABC)

Australian firms are also far less confident about change than their competitors overseas, according to research released on Friday by advisory firm ENGIE Impact.

“Australian organisations, more than any others globally, are down on confidence when it comes to their ability to achieve climate targets,” managing director James Ramsay warned.

But reducing spending on decarbonisation projects could severely hinder their ability to set themselves up for the future, he said.

The survey also found sentiment towards sustainability has declined sharply, just months out from a change in reporting standards that will require large Australian companies to put climate on a par with traditional financial disclosures.

Last year’s net-zero report found many Australian industries had made quick wins on plans for decarbonising operations.

“Now they’re at that next stage which can be more complex and more costly to undertake, particularly in hard to abate sectors,” he said.

The biggest barriers to more progress were organisational capacity/too many other priorities (42 per cent), lack of specialist skills and internal resources (42 per cent), and budgetary constraints (32 per cent), the survey found.

Mr Ramsay recommended having a range of projects – some with a 10-year cycle and others two years – and helping the organisation, from the board down, understand the cost of not investing in decarbonisation.

More than two thirds (67 per cent) of Australian respondents said their organisation’s level of investment was sufficient in commitments to carbon reduction.

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Australian organisations ranked long term cost savings as the top driver of decarbonisation (44 per cent), compared to the leading reason (47 per cent) for global counterparts of “safeguarding the future of our planet”.

Some 48 per cent of Australian bosses said they were likely to reduce decarbonisation investment if economic conditions worsen.

A mere 29 per cent listed decarbonisation as a commercial imperative compared to 33 per cent of global peers.

Only 16 per cent said having a leading sustainability strategy with excellent execution would provide a material competitive advantage “to a large extent”, compared to 33 per cent abroad.

When asked the same question a year ago, more than half (52 per cent) of Australian organisations responded “to a large extent” compared to 30 per cent of global peers.

More than 500 senior executives from the world’s largest companies were surveyed, including Australia’s technology, finance, retail, mining, industrial manufacturing, healthcare, real estate, and food and beverage industries.

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