[Image: Solar Farm in New South Wales, Australia | © Michael Hall]
Today saw the sad announcement that The Climate Institute is to close its' doors at the end of June this year.
Established in 2005, the Institute has been at the heart of the torrid climate policy battles that have, at times, engulfed Australia in the past decade.
During that time this small organisation (staff levels have never been above 15) achieved a quite staggering output of credible, fact–based work that always strived to find a pathway for Australia to play its' full and fair role in the fight to negate the worst impacts of climate change.
It would be fair to say it's experienced its fair share of highs and lows in its 12–year existence: from the successful introduction of a carbon price in Australia, followed all too swiftly by it's short–sighted repeal; from the introduction and expansion of the Renewable Energy Target to the recent instability within long–term Australian climate policy; from the creation of the Asset Owners' Disclosure Project to documenting some of the real impacts of climate change that increasingly impact Australians.
I should declare my personal experience of some of those highs and lows, given I worked there for almost a third of it's existence from 2011–2015. During this time I was both depressed by the reality of what the world faced on the climate change front, but also inspired by the people and organisations I met who were fighting to make sure the worst impacts never came to bear. And whilst I saw Australia's first carbon price come and go, I also witnessed the birth of the divestment movement, the rapid development of a multitude of renewable technologies (and the dramatic drop in the cost of many of them) and the surging movement of individuals and companies just getting on with dealing with the problem even as so many politicians failed us. I also saw the slow (too slow still to be honest) progress of the international climate negotiations that have slowly built to the first real international agreement in Paris at the end of 2016.
Unfortunately, during that time I also saw how tough it was for funding to be secured by an organisation based on 'centrist advocacy' like The Climate Institute – particularly as the issue became increasingly politicised and polarised. On a playing field like this, the funding has tended to go to the more extreme 'fighters' like Beyond Zero Emissions or Greenpeace, or the more populist science and solutions communicators like The Climate Council or ClimateWorks.
That's not to take anything away from these organisations – they do truly amazing and essential work, but it has meant The Climate Institute has been squeezed from both sides when it comes to securing sustainable funding; a situation that has sadly clearly become unsustainable, hence today's announcement.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad the Institute is closing – whilst also genuinely concerned how the gap they will leave in advocating credible and impactful Australian climate policy will be filled. But I'm also immensely proud of the achievements this small organisation achieved during it's 12–year odyssey – and the very small part I played in them.
I'm also proud to have worked with some truly inspiring leaders in their field during my time there. They included (and my apologies to whoever I miss): John Connor, Erwin Jackson, Corey Watts, Esther Green, Garrett Stringer, Giulia Baggio, Harriet Binet, Jennifer Recio, Julian Poulter, Kate Mackenzie, Kristina Stefanova, Luke Menzies, Olivia Kember, Will McGoldrick, Adam Kilgour, Andrew Demetriou, Clare Martin, Eve Kantor, Dr. Graeme Pearman, Dr. Hugh Saddler, Jenny Merkley, Mark Wootton, Matt Koch, Sam Meers, Susan Jeanes and the late Professor Tony McMichael.
Given the personalities (and drive) of all of the above, it's no surprise that many are already involved in other areas of the climate change fight – and I will be watching with interest to see where the remaining core of the Institute's staff end up.
I can promise you one thing, they certainly won't be withdrawing from the battle field any time soon!