Venture seeks 'big bets' on new clean, green economy

A new venture is trying to woo investors to lay a wager on the "big bets" that could underpin Australia's future economy.

Fraser Thompson, co-founder of prospective solar exporter Sun Cable, says he has launched project development and advisory firm Cyan Ventures to incubate big ideas that stack up in a green economy.

"We need thousands of big bets in different areas of the sustainability transition," Dr Thompson said.

The firm's first white paper, released on Thursday, narrows it down to Australia becoming a world leader in sustainable aviation fuel, a clean export superpower and making money from eliminating waste.

But government policymaking needed to shift from regulating against threats to thinking about how policy could enable businesses and investors to go after opportunities, he said.

Most decision makers focus on the risks, with the property market expected to lose $571 billion in value by 2030 due to climate change and extreme weather.

Defence personnel and emergency responders are already at risk. As temperatures rise, workers in other exposed industries might need to change the way they work, which could cost the economy more than $420 billion.

Biodiversity loss and climate change could pose large risks to the tourism market for Australia.

Reduced agricultural and labour productivity from climate change and the death of pollinators is projected to exceed $19 billion by 2030.

But there is a viable pathway to address climate change and biodiversity risks, that could also drive significant economic and investment value, according to Cyan.

Banks find it easy to understand solar and wind farms but lack the incentives to properly assess new areas, according to the white paper.

For most sustainability business opportunities, there tend to be several "market failures" to deal with, including lack of regulatory frameworks, pricing signals and information gaps for investors. 

Advocacy and investment skills will be vital, rather than the traditional engineering focus, to generate change and profits.

Understanding the focus areas, building a coalition across the economy, and ending a fixation with risk are put forward as the three "non-negotiable" ways of accelerating change.

Past work by Dr Thompson, the World Economic Forum and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund has identified $6.6 trillion of economic opportunity in the Asia Pacific region alone from the energy and nature transition that is under way.

However, only one-third of these green economy opportunities are receiving significant attention, even though they are feasible and could have a large impact.

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