WA Climate Leaders was the brainchild of journalist and interviewer Meri Fatin in 2020, who had brought former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres to Western Australia and couldn’t find a government or business representative willing to speak alongside her at a public climate event. She realised there was a real lack of visible climate leadership in WA, and that many leaders were uncomfortable and concerned about the social stigma of being publicly vocal on climate change.
The idea for WA Climate leaders specifically came when Meri was asked to curate the speakers and audience for the TEDxPerth Countdown: WA Climate Leadership Summit in 2020. The event attracted a cross-section of people who wouldn’t ordinarily get a chance to meet and connect. In Western Australia, the dominant role of the resources sector in politics, business, media and society has dampened visionary climate leadership. While some WA climate leaders are comfortable advocating publicly, for many this is still an uncomfortable conversation and they don’t feel skilled or supported in speaking up. Business leaders taking great strides to decarbonise, for example, would rarely join public debates about the need for policy change. WA Climate Leaders is striving to catalyse public leadership on climate in three key ways.
First, by hosting a trusted, supportive and expert non-partisan network for climate leaders across business, government and society. The TedX event was the beginning of a 700+ network of leaders from civil society, business, industry, academia, and government all passionate about climate action, but approaching it from very different perspectives.
Meri convenes regular in-person networking catch-ups for network participants every two months. In addition, she has chaired multiple private round table conversations and facilitated meetings with politicians, scientists, activists and business people. It is already proving to be useful for building literacy and support for climate action within the WA government.
Second, by convening events that normalise climate leadership. In addition to TedXPerth Countdown: WA Climate Leadership Summit Nov 2020 WA Climate Leaders has now run multiple events including Race to Zero (March 2021, featuring Dr Bill Hare, climate strategist and Paris Agreement lead author Andrew Higham, and UWA Pro Vice Chancellor Engagement, barrister and Chair of Horizon Power, Samantha Tough); a flagship six part panel discussion series in partnership with the WA Museum in 2021 (WA Museum Boola Bardip: Tipping Point) and The Nexus of Risk, Responsibility and Reputation 2022 (Harriet Kater ACCR, Oliver Freedman Reptrak, Nick Wood, Energetics). Meri has recently received her first invitations to speak about WA Climate Leaders.
Third, building climate literacy and confidence behind the scenes in key institutions. Meri’s background in media means she has been able to play a behind the scenes role in encouraging media outlets in WA to seek briefings from climate experts to increase their climate literacy.