January 20, 2020 / 1:22 PM / a month ago

Most Australian executives say climate change will damage companies: survey

SYDNEY (Reuters) - More than 80% of Australian business executives believe climate change will damage their companies, a paper published on Tuesday showed, the highest percentage recorded out of business leaders in 19 countries surveyed.

FILE PHOTO: A burning gum tree is felled to stop it from falling on a car in Corbago, as bushfires continue in New South Wales, Australia January 5, 2020. REUTERS/Tracey Nearmy/File Photo

Australia has for months been battling scores of fires across the country’s east coast that have killed 29 people and millions of animals, destroyed more than 2,500 homes and scorched an area roughly one-third the size of Germany.

Bushfires are common in Australia but the season has started much earlier than usual.

With the crisis illustrating the threat of a changing climate, a Deloitte survey of global business leaders showed 81% of Australian executives believe climate change will harm their company.

The concern from Australian executives is significantly higher than the global average of 48%.

“Businesses need to demonstrate to investors that they are taking appropriate steps to mitigate their exposure,” said Robert Hillard, chief strategy and innovation officer at Deloitte Australia.

The findings add pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is under a barrage of criticism for his government’s handling of the crisis, as community support for climate action increases.

Morrison on Monday boosted emergency funding for small businesses hit by the bushfires as the mounting costs of the disaster cast doubt on the government’s ability to deliver a promised budget surplus.

But Morrison has said strengthening Australia’s carbon emission reduction targets will damage the economy.

Public anger, however, remains high, stoked further when senior government officials publicly disputed climate change.

“It is a test of his leadership. He must show that he can stare down his own party and get it to stay quiet,” said Haydon Manning, professor at the college of business, government and law at Flinders University.

Reporting by Colin Packham. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Franklin Paul

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