It might be hard to fathom that a miner, a bank and a supermarket were able to come to the table on net zero by 2050 before the federal government could even commit to an emissions target.
Political infighting within the Coalition has only seen the Morrison government commit to the target this week, prompting a furore on the opposite side of the chamber over a lack of public modelling to achieve the target. The private sector in Australia has moved on.
Ahead of the Glasgow COP26 summit, public companies which attribute heavily to countries emissions are making bold attempts to become carbon neutral before the 2050 deadline.
Three major publicly listed firms spoke to The Canberra Times, to discuss why corporates believe factoring in climate risks and pivoting business is vital for the ongoing success of Australia's economy.
Across corporate Australia, attitudes on a decarbonised economy are changing.
The Business Council of Australia recently backflipped on its anti-emissions position from two years ago, claiming bolder reductions between 46 and 50 per cent are achievable by 2030.
Similarly, the Reserve Bank of Australia also warned not tackling climate change is increasing risks that more capital investment will outflow from the country than what is coming in.
We think there'll be a premium for green iron ore because we'll be selling a product that is free from emissions.- Fortescue boss Elizabeth Gaines
Mining billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest claimed Australia could be a green energy superpower, but warned support by the Commonwealth is imperative to assist the transition away from fossil fuels.
"It won't happen at the same pace, or may not [even] happen in Australia," Dr Forrest said at the National Press Club in relation to the opportunities in green energy.
"We will have to take our investments, our technologies, our ideas to those countries who will strongly welcome us."
The federal government has outlined its plan on getting to net zero through a $20 billion investment which it says will bring down emissions through technology which in some instances has not even been invented yet.
Billionaires such as Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Broookes have publicly condemned the Morrison net zero pledge calling it "ridiculously embarrassing" and not understanding the choices to transition the economy.
But while semantics persist on the government's attempts to appease the globe, firms such as Fortescue Metals, National Australia Bank and Woolworths are pivoting to take advantage of the commercial opportunities set to arise in a decarbonised economy.
Iron ore giant Fortescue Metals has made one of the boldest pledges of being carbon neutral by the end of the decade.
Fortescue boss Elizabeth Gaines believes the opportunities in renewable technology will pivot the West Australian miner from a singular iron ore business to a green renewables and resources company.
"The science is demonstrating that 2050 will be too late," Ms Gaines said. "If we want to achieve the targets that have been set under the Paris Agreement we actually need to act now."
The mining giant has committed to net zero scope three emissions by 2040, and has recently invested billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in Queensland and New South Wales for its intended move into green hydrogen as a mass market energy source.
Fortescue's metamorphosis involves an overhaul of its existing diesel operated machinery to run on renewable sources of energy.
Ms Gaines also noted part of the business strategy is to create "green" raw minerals and resources, which she believes will see heightened demand from buyers seeking environmentally friendly materials.
Potential future changes in government policy could see the introduction of some form of domestic carbon tax, which would increase costs for not mitigating climate risks.
"Our view is that to decarbonise makes very good business sense and to mitigate the risk of those [potential] increased costs," Ms Gaines said.
"We think there'll be a premium for green iron ore because we'll be selling a product that is free from emissions.
"This is a significant strategy and vision to diversify Fortescue from a resources company to a global renewables green products and resources company."
According to the head of the resources giant, Fortescue could have gone down a path of solely decarbonising its existing business, but would have missed out on the opportunity of future energy exports.
Fortescue's green hydrogen ambitions will be powered primarily on solar and wind.
"We're seeing the opportunity to not only decarbonise our operations, but to also develop this significant export opportunity," Ms Gaines said.
The company has also flagged the green hydrogen industry would support regional areas, which traditionally relied on fossil fuel sectors.
The nation's largest business bank hopes a pivot to a more carbon conscious economy will diversify investment and lending within Australia's financial system.
By 2035, NAB intends to effectively have no exposure to thermal coal within its lending portfolio, as part of its endeavours to meet its net zero target by the middle of the decade.
Approximately $70 billion has been set aside for environmental financing by 2025.
NAB corporate and institutional banking executive David Gall, said greater levels of finance would be offered to climate conscious projects and noted the bank was in discussions with its top 100 emitters, to try and assist in transition strategies.
"At the heart of banking is risk management," Mr Gall said.
"What we can do is bring financing innovation and that has led to huge demand around things like sustainability linked loans and for some sustainability linked bonds."
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Mr Gall said the nation's largest business bank already has conducted over 150 renewable energy transactions.
Head of NAB's Agribusiness division Julie Rynski believes a carbon trading system could provide a second income to farming communities, which assist offsetting emissions from larger polluters.
"Carbon credits is not a one year crop," Ms Rynski said.
"[Farmers know] increased carbon, you get a better return. So it's also a money making type approach as well.
"I do see the second income as a really good opportunity because there'll be large corporates who will need the agricultural and farming society to support them to hit their targets."
Ms Rynski flagged the additional income would help farmers to make their land more resilient, by planting trees for livestock to have shade, or investing in additional technology to enhance yield production.
NAB recently closed its first ESG-linked derivative with a top 50 ASX listed company.
Australia's largest retailer Woolworths aims to meet its emissions pledges by an overhaul of its supply chain.
Head of Woolworths' climate change strategy, Fiona Walmsley says the replacement of the company's existing fridge network and moving its distribution channels to lower emitting alternatives will be key for the supermarket giant to meet its net zero pledge
By the end of the decade, it intends to reduce its scope one and two emissions by 63 per cent.
Woolworths has also committed to entirely running all its operations from renewable energy sources.
Ms Walmsley said the push to go green is an expectation from customers, who want big business to pull their weight in reducing emissions.
"We really have seen a marked acceleration in our customers awareness of sustainability and understanding of climate challenges," she said.
"I think there is sort of a well understood benefit now for businesses to be really leaning into sustainability. It can lower costs and it can de-risk your business."
Ms Walmsley noted supermarket operations are energy intensive and the switch to 100 per cent renewables would take care of the majority of emissions produced.
Woolworths believes technology is vital to ensuring future production equipment meet environmental standards. This includes the replacement of old fridges and distribution equipment.
It flagged more partnerships with sustainable suppliers across Australia and New Zealand, as part of its strategy.
Ms Walmsley said by the middle of the century, Woolworths is intending to have a net positive, rather than a net zero position.
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