The Climate Institute, perhaps Australia’s pre-eminent independent policy advocate and analysis group, says it will close its doors on June 30, after 12 years, due to a lack of funds.
“The Board of The Climate Institute (TCI) has announced that the TCI will cease to operate on June 30, 2017,” chairman Mark Wootton said in a statement, saying it had been “unable to establish the viable level of funding that would enable The Climate Institute to continue in a meaningful, sustainable form.”
CEO John Connor is to step down this month, while head of policy Olivia Kember will take over as acting CEO. Connor is to join legal firm Baker McKenzie and will head the Fiji government’s hosting of the next COP (annual climate talks) which are to be held in Berlin later this year.
Ironically, given the Murdoch media’s reporting of climate and clean energy, the TCI initial funding came from a Murdoch family bequest, from Rupert Murdoch’s nephew Tom Kantor. That was later supplemented by other philanthropists, but Connor says funding support has headed elsewhere.
“We haven’t been able to plug the gap. Centrist , pragmatic advocady is not sexy for many people who want to fund the fighters or pour funds into new technology,” Connor told RenewEconomy.
TCI – formed in 2005 – has been a pioneer of climate and policy research and a leading advocate for what it calls “credible, practical climate policy throughout a tumultuous period in Australian public, investor and business decision-making.
It says its advocacy helped deliver the expansion of the Renewable Energy Target in 2008, the Turnbull/Rudd Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme agreement in 2009, and the implementation in 2012 of the Clean Energy Future Act.
“The CEF Act reduced emissions by around 40 million tonnes over two years, while the economy grew. When the CEF Act was abolished, we helped save vital independent institutions like the Climate Change Authority (CCA),” it says.
More recently, it helped build bipartisan support for Australia’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, in December 2016. Connor and deputy CEO Erwin Jackson have been prominent and influential players at the climate talks over the past decade and more.
Connor has described the last decade as a “roller-coaster” and like banging heads against a brick wall.
“My central message is that the politics is getting surrounded (by science, new technologies, the Pars process and community sentiment). And I don’t think it is sustainable,” he said.
“The perverse outcome of the decade of squabbling is that the only solution will be the smarter and distributed technologies that can be delivered more quickly than the traditional technologies. The solutions will be modern, smart and clean. That is the ultimate irony of this lost decade.”
Wootton said TCI is often described as a trusted broker and critical friend, and we are proud of the way it has built understanding and consensus among a wide variety of stakeholders on such a complex, challenging and important issue.
“We are disappointed that some in Government prefer to treat what should be a risk management issue as a proxy for political and ideological battles. They are increasingly isolated as the costs of inaction mount and the opportunities and benefits of action become ever clearer,” he said.
The TCI said the historic Paris agreement provides a framework for international accountability and action. There has also been a stunning recent surge in affordability and scale of clean energy alternatives.
Connor will now play a critical role in that process, moving to Suva to help the Fiji government prepare for the next COP, which will be critical because it will lay the platform for the specific “rules” to be adopted for the Paris treaty, and will also have to negotiate the new team sent by the Trump administration.
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