BCEC launches Green Shoots: Opportunities to grow a sustainable WA economy
Silvia Salazar, Research Fellow
The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) launched their latest report, Green Shoots: Opportunities to grow a sustainable WA economy, at a breakfast event at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday 12 November.
This report is the fifth in BCEC’s Focus on Industry series and looks at the challenges of balancing economic prosperity with environmental sustainability. It also provides a roadmap for Western Australia to transition to a more sustainable economic future.
Students from Mount Lawley High School and the Curtin Economics Society were in attendance.
Noongar elder Emeritus Professor Colleen Hayward provided a thoughtful Welcome to Country, before Bankwest Chief Customer Officer Paul Vivian opening the event.
“The report recognises the huge challenge that is climate change, and the impact on all sectors of the economy,” Mr Vivian said.
“For Bankwest, we recognise the impacts climate change is having on our customers, whether they are homeowners, aspiring homeowners or businesses engaged in agriculture, mining services or tourism – all of whom have dependencies on natural resources.”
Special guest speaker the Hon Dave Kelly MLA, Minister for Water; Forestry; Innovation and ICT; Science; Youth (pictured above), spoke to the audience about the significance of the report’s key findings to the current state government.
“Some politicians say that there’s a trade-off: you can either create jobs or you can be sustainable,” Minister Kelly said. “As a government, we know that that’s not the choice – you can in fact grow the economy sustainably and at the same time create jobs.
“This report… debunks [the] myths that if we’re going to look after the planet, somehow we’re going to be poorer for it.”
Launching the report, Professor Alan Duncan, co-author and Director of BCEC, urged the need for a clear roadmap to sustainability for WA.
“The challenges brought by climate change have highlighted the significant pressure we put on our resources,” Prof Duncan said. “The pollution of our air, growing water scarcity and the increasing amount of waste has aggravated the loss of biodiversity and caused growing health concerns in our community.
“As we come through the COVID-19 pandemic, the case to balance future economic growth with achievable targets to reduce the state’s environmental footprint has never been more compelling.”
Dr Silvia Salazar, BCEC Research Fellow and co-author highlighted the importance of water amongst WA’s environmental concerns.
“Water is essential in our agricultural practices and industry processes” Dr Salazar said. “Water scarcity has always been a particular concern for the south west of Australia but even more so in the last 50 years.”
(L-R) Green Shoots panellists Piers Verstegen, Yvonne Power and Elizabeth Brennan.
Expert panellists spoke of the challenges and opportunities in moving WA to become a more sustainable economy.
Elizabeth Brennan, Managing Director of agdots, an agricultural consulting company, spoke about including farmers in any environmental ‘solutions’ to protect the agriculture sector.
“[Any solution] needs to be people-focused, process-focused and product-focused,” Ms Brennan said. “So often farmers aren’t involved in decisions that are about them.
“We need to be considerate about how we engage and how it is that we look at how we manage land much more sustainably.”
Piers Verstegen, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of Western Australia, said that the stories we invest in about climate change and sustainability matters.
“There’s been a story around climate change and environmental issues for a long time now,” Mr Verstegen said. “That action on climate change… comes at a cost to jobs and a cost to the economy.
“That story is already starting to flip and… we’re now seeing [that] action on climate change can actually drive a huge wave of jobs and innovation.”
Yvonne Power, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Village Energy, addressed some of the challenges of increasing renewable energy sources in WA.
“Reflecting on WA as a state, the [Green Shoots] report points to the fact that electricity is the key driver of emissions, and in WA we are a resource sector and a lot of the energy that is generated is generated by or for industry.
“We have been quite comfortable with the story that mining needs stable power and high amounts of power, so introducing what is an intermittent energy resource… has been a particular barrier, either for technical reasons, or it’s just been easier to rely on fossil fuels.”
While there are challenges presented, Yvonne also sees the bright side in WA.
“There’s a huge opportunity in WA to start to see renewables increasing.”
In closing the event, Curtin University Provost Professor Alan Dench noted that we’re at a critical crossroads in WA.
“We’re at a point where there’s a great deal of change in the environment… and this report provides a pretty compelling roadmap for how we can change, how we can move WA to transition to a more sustainable and resilient economic future.”