The Future of Fossil Fuels in a Climate-Challenged World

Presented by the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the Sydney Environment Institute and Australia

31 March, 2015

Over the last two centuries, the growth of our modern global economy has been fundamentally based upon the exploitation of cheap fossil fuel-based energy. However, as climate science has highlighted, the combustion of fossil fuels and resulting greenhouse gas emissions now pose an existential threat to our environment, and indeed, the very future of human society.

Anthropogenic climate change is now underway, evident in a warming world, increasingly intense droughts and floods, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. While politicians and business obfuscate over the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the latest climate science emphasises our window of opportunity in avoiding catastrophe is closing.

To avoid dangerous climate change, scientists have demonstrated that the vast majority of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground. In response, new social movements have emerged aiming to reduce humanity’s addiction to coal, oil and gas. Technological developments in renewable energy also offer the potential to fundamentally disrupt the fossil fuel economy. In this special Sydney Ideas event, a panel of leading thinkers will address the issue of the future of fossil fuels in a climate-challenged world.


Professor Chris Wright

Professor Christopher Wright is Professor of Organisational Studies and leader of the Balanced Enterprise Research Network at the University of Sydney Business School. His current research explores organizational and societal responses to anthropogenic climate change, with particular reference to how managers and business organizations interpret and respond to climate change. He is the author of a wide range of publications including the forthcoming book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-destruction (2015).

Ben Caldecott

Ben Caldecott is Director of the Stranded Assets programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford and an adviser to The Prince of Wales' International Sustainability Unit. Ben has researched and published extensively on the topic of fossil fuels and their potential to become ‘stranded assets’ as the world moves to confront the issue of climate change.

Blair Palese

Blair Palese is CEO of in Australia and has been at the frontline of moves here and overseas to encourage major superannuation funds, local governments, religious organisations and universities to divest from fossil fuel investments. In the space of a few short years, fossil fuel divestment has grown to become a major global movement which threatens the fossil fuel industry’s social licence to operate.

Giles Parkinson

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of, Australia's leading website on clean technology and climate issues. He is a former deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review and a columnist for The Australian. Giles will outline recent trends in renewable technology, particularly the increasing cost competitiveness of solar and wind energy in disrupting the fossil fuel economy.