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Video: Getting greener with Nicki Hutley, climate and economic commentator

Nicki Hutley is one of Australia's leading climate and economic commentators. In this Getting Greener episode, Nicki shares her thoughts on the future of the green economy, and how our dollars can be a force for good.

Tom
Founder and perpetual optimist
Published on:

July 14, 2021

Nicki Hutley is one of Australia's leading climate and economic commentators. In this Getting Greener episode, Nicki shares her thoughts on the future of the green economy, and how our dollars can be a force for good.

Transcript:

Nicki: Within 5 years it's quite possible for things to look very different, but we have to act right now.

Tom: Getting Greener is a video series bringing together thought leaders across climate, business, youth and government, to get their perspective on what the future of a green economy could look like. Today, we have the pleasure of speaking with well known economic and climate commentator, Nicki Hutley, who's going to share more about what the future of the green economy could look like., as well as sharing 60 seconds with Nicki to get behind the scenes on what makes her tick. So before we talk about the green economy, what I'd love to understand is you've been an expert in this space for more than a decade, what was the moment when you thought, "this climate change thing is real, and I've got to be part of the solution".

Nicki: So the first I came across climate change was working as an economist and looking at Ross Garnauts white paper, where he laid out the science of climate change, and the danger to the economy and to lives. It was probably a bit theoretical at that point. Where it became real, was when I was diving on the barrier reef and I saw coral bleaching first hand. It was like, alright, there it is. And since that time we've seen more extreme events around the world. It's been a slow process, of understanding it intellectually, and then seeing it first hand.

Tom: A lot of people talk about being green, what does that mean to you?

Nicki: I started just doing small things. We have solar panels on the house, I'm vegan, I try very hard to buy things that are made locally. Mostly I try to be conscious about my environmental footprint, that includes where I put my superannuation savings and where I bank. And of course, making sure that every vote counts, that the people representing us really are representing us.

Tom: So Nicki, what's a green economy in your mind?

Nicki: The research that the climate council has been doing, backed up by the IPCC and others suggest that the net zero by 2050 target is too far away. We're moving towards having to be net zero by 2035, this is somethng Australia can and should do. It's a bit faster than others, but we have the money and the technology to do it. It's about making those really significant changes, both with what we already know, the proven technologies, we should be decarbonising our energy sector, transport and buildings.

Tom: What could the green economy look like in just 5 years time?

Nicki: Well under the current government, I'm less than hopeful. But state governments are starting to do more. I think in renewables we're going to see a lot more. We've just had an announcement from the federal government that they're going to invest 600 million in a gas fired power station, That's insane and it sends the wrong signals to the market. We need to be giving confidence to the renewables sectors. And we're seeing most of the big companies are going this way because their customers are demanding it.

Tom: What opportunities are their for businesses to spearhead this green economy?

Nicki: We're already seeing businesses switch to renewable energy, they're cutting their emissions, and they're also cutting their power bill, so that's a no brainer. More sustainable packaging, more sustainable produce, more local, this can save you money if you do it in the right way. So for businesses it's about looking at their scope 1 emissions, what am I doing directly that I can influence? And for a lot of businesses that's purely around the energy that they use. The buildings that they're in or their transport fleets. But also their supply chain, what are they purchasing from others that could be more environmentally friendly. So that's buying local, reducing your transport footprint, making sure that you're using as environmentally friendly products as possible.

Tom: How can we use economics as a force for good to incentivise the repair of the planet?

Nicki: Great question. 15 years ago one of the things we talked about was the cost of acting on climate change, we were going to lose GDP. Now we understand that the costs of not acting are so much greater. There's endless research coming out, something from the ANU saying we're going to have $100 billion a year in economic shock. A paper from Deloitte access economics said that we're going to get a Covid size shock to the economy every single year on average from climate disruption by 2070. So the cost of not acting is massive.

Tom: What one simple thing could a business do today?

Nicki: The simplest thing it to talk to your energy provider and make sure you’re doing renewables. If you’re already doing that then start investigating your supply chain and see what you could source locally. If there’s a price premium, work out if your customer is willing to pay that for a greener product, and the answer a lot of the time, is yes.

Tom: Now for everyone’s favourite part of the series, it’s getting to know the talent. So right now we’re about to hit up Nicki Hutley, to see who she is in 60 seconds. When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Nicki: I wanted to be a reader. What’s a reader? Someone who reads books.

Tom: Most played song on your Spotify playlist.

Nicki: I definitely go through fetishes, but at the moment it’s definitely a lot of Queen, having watched the movie. Under pressure, Queen and David Bowie, can’t go wrong.

Tom: If you were invisible, what would you do?

Nicki: I’d go down to parliament house and I’d put all the climate research on those people’s desks and say “here’s the evidence!”

Tom: OK that’s a theoretical  super power, what’s your actual super power?

Nicki: Probably communication skills.

Tom: What’s your pet peeve?

Nicki: This is going to sounds anti-green, but cyclists who don’t obey the road rules. I love active transport, I’m just a stickler for rules.

Tom: Who’s your climate hero, and why?

Nicki: That’s an easy one. Natalie Isaacs, the CEO of 1 Million Women.

Tom: What’s more important, a handful of people doing zero carbon perfectly, or millions of people doing it imperfectly?

Nicki: At this point, millions doing it imperfectly, because that suggests that they at least get the idea that we need to be doing something.

Tom: This is a bit off topic for 60 seconds with Nicki, but yeah, do you think the mainstream understand what carbon is?

Nicki: I think they understand the concept that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is bad. I think people don’t associate all their actions with carbon emissions. They know coal fired power stations are bad, but they don’t think about plastics or food waste creating emissions.

Tom: That’s what unlocked my whole thinking in this space, when someone told me, “everything we buy has an invisible price tag on the climate, and that’s carbon”. You do think about coal fired power stations, but on this coffee or that croissant, you don’t think about it going all the way down to that level.

Tom: Look everyone, it’s been great to get behind the scenes with Nicki and understand a little bit more about the human side. Can’t wait to have you all tune in for the next episode. Thanks Nicki.

Nicki: Thank you Tom.

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