Market-leading “customer experience” could accelerate industry uptake of climate change technology, says Mike Cannon Brookes, who thinks renewable energy solutions need to benefit businesses in more ways than just emissions reduction.
Speaking at Sydney’s “Impact X” summit in Sydney on Wednesday, Cannon-Brookes, and British billionaire and Virgin boss, Richard Branson, each weighed in on how Australia could best accelerate pathways to zero emissions.
Using Tesla as an example, Cannon-Brookes said climate tech start-ups need to engineer products that offer customers a broader range of benefits than just “doing the right thing”.
“If you show them that doing the right thing can be cheaper, and they can have a better experience of whatever it is that they’re doing, then I think it will accelerate the rollout,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“I argue that all the time with Tesla cars, so people buy Tesla cars, they buy them because they’re just a better car, right? They don’t buy them because it’s green, they buy them because they’re quiet, because they’ve got a great sound system and all this other stuff that happens to have an effect, that they save the planet while they’re doing it.”
The Atlassian CEO’s comments come less than a week after his company booked first-quarter revenue of $614 million, up 34% on the $459.5 million they pocketed last year.
Announcing the results, the company — which has been running solely on renewable energy since the start of the 2020 financial year — also committed to bringing forward its net zero emissions target from 2050 to 2040.
On Wednesday, Cannon-Brookes said although Australia’s transition to decarbonisation still faces considerable challenges, the nation’s policymakers should look to the UK as a model for long-term decarbonisation, after 10 years of considerable progress.
Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to cut 78% of carbon emissions out of the British economy by 2035, before heading to the UN’s COP26 climate summit, where he brokered a deal with 100 world leaders to cut methane emissions by 30% before 2030.
“The UK is actually one of the nations that has done this the best if you look at their 2030 [targets], and even 40-year history,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“This is a challenge for our economy, and we have to be honest with people, whether they’re a worker in [carbon] industries, or… a business, we have to be honest and say we are going to take action to move away from those technologies,” he said.
“The globe is going to move there if we don’t, but we have to have an understanding that that can be a very positive thing for our economy.”
It’s a view evidenced by recent research from Deloitte. Pradeep Philip, head of Access Economics at Deloitte, told Business Insider Australia that inaction on climate change could cost the Australian economy $3.4 trillion and 6.6 million less jobs by 2070.
“But if you do act — and I mean, commit to net zero by 2050 — in concert with the rest of the world to keep temperature rises to around 1.5 degrees, the benefit to the Australian economy is not that loss, but instead a gain of $90 billion and about 200,000 jobs by 2070,” Philip said.
He said either demand for Australian exports will plunge, or the risk of a carbon border adjustment mechanism (a carbon tariff) will increase dramatically — or both.
“In our analysis, we’ve also noted that if the rest of the world acts, while we’re too slow, and the rest of the world imposes carbon tariffs on us, that will effectively add about 45% to the cost of transitioning our economy over the next 10 years,” he said.
At Wednesday’s summit, Virgin boss Richard Branson said because legislating an Australian carbon tax is unlikely, policymakers should consider introducing “something like a carbon clean energy dividend”.
“Every company [would] put aside a certain amount of money, like Mike has done to invest in clean energy projects, but they would have the chance of getting that money back through their investments,” Branson said.
“And if every company was asked to do that enormous amounts of money would then be invested in Australia in trying to create a clean energy revolution.”