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Never Waste a Crisis: Rebirth of the Sustainability Agenda

Guest speakers and panelists at the event at EY Perth, Western Australia.

The United Nations Association of Western Australia (UNAAWA) held a panel discussion at Ernst & Young (EY) on the 2nd of June 2022. Never waste a crisis: rebirth of the sustainability agenda addressed the current world crisis and invited the panellists to share important measures that could help people and communities affected by it.

Dr Sandy Chong delivered the opening speech for the evening. She highlighted the three Fs from the ongoing crisis – famine, food and fuel. She discussed how the overlapping challenges are revealing the fault line in the socio-economic sector. “We are moving on from pandemic into the climate crisis, something that the world is experiencing head-on. The rise in food costs in the least developed countries, possible famine and an increase in energy prices have also put pressure on the financial firepower needed to deal with this.” She also discussed how the current businesses are undergoing a wave of change, which is why it is important to focus on the effective implementation of SDGs, engage in social justice, and monitor the use of resources.

Geoff Baker, a member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly for South Perth delivered an introductory speech before the panel discussion. He talked about the development of green energy and green technology and discussed how the government is still behind in the implementation of an effective climate change policy. However, he acknowledged the efforts of the mining industry in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, where they adapted and implemented greener technologies into their supply chains. The two reasons for that were access to green markets (requiring certification) and the cost-saving benefits of installing green energy on-site.

After the speeches, the event was followed by an interactive game session to help raise awareness about United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The panel hosted three guests; Tim Shanahan, director of RAC WA Holdings Company, Fiona Argyle, Mayor of the City of Nedlands, and Adam Carrel, a partner at EY. When asked about their passion for sustainability, Fiona highlighted that climate change is the world’s greatest action problem and it is imperative to work towards it. Tim added that it is an existential threat to the world and companies must come up with smarter and more effective ways of dealing with the issue.

Fiona shared the challenges in achieving sustainability for the constituency. “There are three critical issues in achieving sustainability; the first is funding; without appropriate funding and support from both the people and the government, no one can achieve sustainability. The second is powerful dissenting voices, people with significant influence in both local, state, or federal levels of government working against sustainability. The third is inconsistencies within the state government with the government, with the state government paying lip service and greenwashing (with Fiona giving the example of the removal of class A zoning, zoning designed for future generations).”

When asked about the issues that state and federal governments facing, Adam discussed how people are more concerned about their personal exposure to climate change than embarrassed to do anything about it as people. “People are no longer couplable for the state of the world, and we need to rediscover this culpability to build our momentum for change to the current global order,” he added.

In Dr Sandy’s opening note, she shared the fear of experts that the UN may not be able to achieve the SDGs by 2030. When asked the panellists about their opinion on this, Tim said, “We are not going to achieve these goals at this pace with the Covid pandemic, the war between Russia and Ukraine and Inflation having a significant effect on the international community’s response.

However, nations are moving in the right direction and continued regulations surrounding pollution and greenwashing will go far in the promotion and development of the UNSDGs.” “There is not enough action by the local and international community to effectively promote and implement actions to save humanity,” Fiona added. Adam summarized the discussion by saying, “unless we make a practical and significant commitment to the implementation of actions that promote and enforce sustainability, we will be unable to work through the issues.”

Closing remarks were delivered by all the three panellists, urging businesses to make a change by adapting effective and sustainable practices.

The event was attended by 90 guests, UNAAWA members and community partners and concluded with light snacks and drinks.

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