09 March, 2017
Courtesy of the SMH
Australia’s original climate change-focused think-tank and lobby group will shut after it failed to replace the multi-million-dollar bequest it relied on.
The Climate Institute, known for its research and leading role in public debate since being set up in 2005, will close in June.
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It comes 18 months after the institute called for public donations to offset the lapsing of the foundational support set up by Rupert Murdoch’s niece, Eve Kantor, and her husband, farmer Mark Wootton.
Mr Wootton, also the institute’s chairman, said he was proud that the institute had built understanding of a complex issue during a tumultuous time in Australian public life.
He said he was particularly gratified to have seen the shift in the business and finance communities, where many who were opposed to the institute’s goals had in recent years become allies.
“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,” he said.
“They are increasingly isolated as the costs of inaction mount and the opportunities and benefits of action become ever clearer.”
Where membership-based environment groups are necessarily focused on building grassroots support in the community, the Climate Institute has developed a reputation for policy analysis and building partnerships across the ideological spectrum.
It played a central role in the campaign for a limit on greenhouse gas emissions, and in bringing together groups representing business, investors, unions and the welfare sector to push for change.
It also focused on improving understanding of the importance of climate risk-management in the financial sector, particularly superannuation funds.
The closure follows the resignation of the institute’s long-time leaders, chief executive John Connor and deputy chief executive Erwin Jackson.
Mr Connor will move to Fiji next month to head the secretariat supporting the Pacific nation’s presidency of this year’s United Nations climate negotiations. Mr Jackson resigned late last year for personal reasons.
The institute was originally planned to run for five years through the Poola Foundation, set up from the estate of Ms Kantor’s late brother Tom. It was extended to a decade when the first round lapsed in 2010, but not expected to continue beyond that.
Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said the institute had been a “very strong actor” in public debate, advocating for sensible discussion and workable outcomes.
“Their voice in the debate will be missed,” he said.
Australian Council of Social Service chief Cassandra Goldie said the institute was a key partner in bring groups together and making the case for addressing climate pollution in a fair and equitable way.
“We are losing a major brains trust for the country on these issues, and a voice that has been such an important contributor on an agenda that clearly remains alive and extremely urgent,” she said.
“It is very sad. I hope there can be some intervention to keep its doors open and continue to build on the vital work they have done.”
Olivia Kember, the institute’s head of policy, will act as chief executive until it closes.