Government fails investors with climate inaction: O'Donnell

Growing up on Wurundjeri country in the Central Highlands of Victoria, I can't remember a time when climate change wasn't a concern.

This region was devastated by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, and worse again in the recent Black Summer fires. I have friends who lost family members and homes, so a future in which bushfires are more frequent and severe terrifies me.

Katta O'Donnell is a law student at La Trobe university

Katta O'Donnell is a law student at La Trobe university

I'm a fifth year law student and last year, lawyer David Barnden gave a guest lecture at my university about the financial risks of climate change.

This sparked my interest about financial risks and I contacted David afterwards to learn more. Now he's my lawyer in a world-first case that's claiming the federal government has failed to disclose the financial risks of climate change to investors.

I'm the lead in this class action because I want the government to front up to the risks of climate change and disclose them to government bond investors like me. Superannuation funds are also large investors in bonds, and many Australians would own bonds through their funds.

Climate change is going to be expensive. The recent bushfires have been estimated to cost our economy $100 billion. Devastatingly, our iconic Great Barrier Reef is dying, which will also cost our economy billions of dollars. Farmers are struggling to cope with years of drought, which will burden our economy even more.

My case asks the government to tell the truth about these risks. It recognises a number of factors that go to making climate change a real risk to investors. These include actions the federal government is taking to protect the economy from climate change and reduce emissions.

I would love to confidently say that after graduation I will work in environmental law but I'm sure I speak for many young people when I say that our futures seem uncertain, insecure and unstable right now.

I want to see my government face up to the financial risks of climate change by warning of the true risks. Governments and leaders need to be held accountable if they don't.

We are seeing global mobilisation around climate change seeking to hold governments accountable for their actions.

Hundreds of thousands of protestors last year demanded the Australian government take stronger action on climate change so younger people like me aren't left with the physical, emotional and financial toll of the climate crisis.

  • Katta O'Donnell is a law student at La Trobe university