The Great Debate 2018 – and the little coral that could

Audio recordings of the presentations at the feature festival event ‘The Great Debate’ at the Big Weekend of the National Sustainable Living Festival 2018 on 9 February 2018.

Photos by Julian Meehan

The event set out to explore the vital role carbon ‘drawdown’ could play in helping reach a below zero emission world. What will Australia’s role look like in mounting this historic social, political and technical mobilisation to cool the planet fast?

The event organisers asked the speakers to reflect on the question: Do we have the capability to reverse global warming within a meaningful timeframe? Have we left our run too late?

“The chance for us to create a sustainable world now rests precariously in our ability to reverse dangerous global warming in a meaningful timeframe. So is it now possible to restore climate conditions back to those safe for human civilisation?”

The speakers’ brief was to split their time half on: What are the solutions that need to happen? – and the other half on: How do we get the social and political change we need to see to get there?

Anna Skarbek, CEO, ClimateWorks





David Spratt, Climate Policy Analyst





Kelly O’Shanassy, CEO, Australian Conservation Foundation





Ian Dunlop, former Chair of the Australian Coal Association





Clive Hamilton, Author and Academic




Paul Hawken, Californian environmentalist, author and activist – together with Kelly O’Shanassy

We are hoping Paul Hawken’s speech will be aired on national radio soon and therefore not publishing it here.


Bernie Hobbs, Science Writer and MC



Event header on the festival home page

» www.slf.org.au/event/great-debate


About the speakers

Anna Skarbek has led ClimateWorks since its inception in 2009. Anna guides ClimateWorks’ independent research and advisory work analysing emissions reduction opportunities and partnering with government and business to unblock barriers to implementation.

Anna brings considerable private and public sector knowledge to the role as an experienced investment banker, policy advisor and qualified lawyer. Prior to ClimateWorks, Anna was based in London where she applied her skills as an advisor dedicated to raising and deploying capital for low carbon activities as Vice President, Advisory, at Climate Change Capital. She has also worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Victorian Deputy Premier, an investment banker for Macquarie Bank and as a solicitor with Malleson Stephen Jacques.

Anna was an inaugural Director of Australia’s green investment bank, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and is a Director of Green Buildings Council Australia, a Trustee of the Sustainable Melbourne Fund, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, a member of the Grattan Institute’s Energy Program Reference Panel and a member of the Leadership Forum for Energy Transition for Australia.

Previously Anna has served on the South Australian Government’s Low Carbon Economy Expert Panel, the Victorian Climate Change Act Independent Review Committee, the Australian Government’s Energy White Paper Reference Panel and the former Australian Government Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Board, as well as with the NGO Roundtable on Climate Change.

Anna holds First Class Honours Degrees in Commerce and Law from Monash University. She is a graduate member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has completed leadership studies at the Oxford University Said Business School and the Melbourne Business School. Anna was a double Finalist in the 2014 Victorian Telstra Business Women’s Awards in the Business Innovation and Community & Government categories.


David Spratt is a Research Director for Breakthrough and co-author of Climate Code Red: The case for emergency action (Scribe 2008). His recent reports include Recount: It’s time to “Do the math” again; Climate Reality Check and Antarctic Tipping Points for a Multi-metre Sea-level Rise.


Ian Dunlop has wide experience in energy resources, infrastructure, and international business, for many years on the international staff of Royal Dutch Shell. He has worked at senior level in oil, gas and coal exploration and production, in scenario and long-term energy planning, competition reform and privatization.

He chaired the Australian Coal Association in 1987-88. From 1998-2000 he chaired the Australian Greenhouse Office Experts Group on Emissions Trading which developed the first emissions trading system design for Australia. From 1997 to 2001 he was CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Ian has a particular interest in the interaction of corporate governance, corporate responsibility and sustainability.

An engineer from the University of Cambridge (UK), MA Mechanical Sciences, he is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Energy Institute (UK), and a Member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME (USA).

He is Chairman of Safe Climate Australia, a Director of Australia 21, Deputy Convenor of the Australian Association for the Study of Peak Oil, a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development, a Member of The Club of Rome and a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s Climate Change Task Force. He advises and writes extensively on governance and sustainability.


Kelly O’Shanassy is CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation.  During a career encompassing business, government and the community sector, Kelly has established world-first environment protection policies and advocated for a sustainable, clean energy future.  A believer in the power of people to achieve change, Kelly has a strong focus on community engagement and activation


Clive Hamilton is an Australian author and public intellectual. Since 2008 he has been Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra.

For 14 years, until February 2008, he was the Executive Director of The Australia Institute, a progressive think tank he founded. He holds an arts degree from the Australian National University and an economics degree from the University of Sydney. He completed a doctorate in the economics of development at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

Clive has held visiting academic positions at Yale University, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, University College London and Sciences Po in Paris.

He has published on a wide range of subjects but is best known for his books, a number of which have been best-sellers. They include Growth Fetish (2003), Affluenza (with Richard Denniss, 2005), Silencing Dissent (edited with Sarah Maddison, 2007), Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change, (2010) and What Do We Want? The story of protest in Australia (2016). His latest book, Defiant Earth: The fate of humans in the Anthropocene, will be published by Polity Press in May 2017.

In 2009 Clive was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to public debate and public policy. Later that year he was the Greens candidate in the by-election for the federal seat of Higgins. In 2012 he was appointed by the Federal Government to the Climate Change Authority.


Paul Hawken is an American environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. He is one of the environmental movement’s leading voices, and a pioneering architect of corporate reform with respect to ecological practices. His work includes founding successful, ecologically conscious businesses, writing about the impacts of commerce on living systems, and consulting with heads of state and CEOs on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy. Paul is Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a non-profit dedicated to researching when and how global warming can be reversed. The organisation maps and models the scaling of one hundred substantive technological, social, and ecological solutions to global warming.

Paul has appeared in numerous media including the Today Show, Larry King, Talk of the Nation, Charlie Rose, and has been profiled or featured in hundreds of articles including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Washington Post, Business Week, Esquire, and US News and World Report. His writings have appeared in the Harvard Business Review, Resurgence, New Statesman, Inc, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Mother Jones, Utne Reader, Orion, and many other publications.


Bernie Hobbs is an award-winning science writer and broadcaster with ABC Science. Bernie has always had a thing for science. And while she’s spent some time actually doing it, her real passion is for talking (and talking, and talking) about science.

A former teacher and medical researcher, Bernie’s been talking, writing and having a beer or two over science at the ABC since 1997. Whether it’s through her weekly radio shows, award-winning websites, Science in the Pub or the experiMENTALS, her mission is to convert the “science=yawn” crowd.

Bernie is in awe of inventors who don’t just feel passionate about things – they’ve busted a gut to literally “make” a difference.







» World Economic Forum – 2 March 2018:
Could this be the best way to tackle climate change?
“Sustainable investing may be a better way to tackle climate change than switching to renewable energy.” By Sasja Beslik, Head, Sustainable Finance, Nordea Bank AB


» Pacific Standard – 27 March 2018:
Can evolution outpace climate change?
“At least one sea creature—the purple sea urchin—appears to pass on the ability to rapidly adapt to a harsh environment. It may be more resilient to the climate change and acidification than previously thought, a new study suggests.”