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‘Go after the money’: Goldman environmental prize winner honoured for urging banks to

The laptop was second-hand, but Julien Vincent had a spare room and a very, very big idea: could he start a movement to convince Australia’s biggest financial institutions to stop investing the billions of dollars that sustained the fossil fuel industry?

“There wasn’t much to lose really,” says Vincent. “But yes, I was nervous early on because of the significance of the people we were taking on. The banks and the fossil fuel industry … they’ll be as cold and ruthless as they can be.”

One decade later, what that idea became – Vincent’s campaign group, Market Forces – has helped push all four of Australia’s big banks to commit to ending investments in coal by 2030.

In the public mind, climate crisis campaigning looks like marches, placards, stunts and activists chained to railway lines and coal conveyor belts. Vincent’s approach saw climate activism pulling on a business suit to sit down in the offices, boardrooms and shareholder meetings of financial institutions.

Today Vincent is awarded the prestigious Goldman environmental prize, described by some as the “Green Nobel”.

He is honoured for creating a “challenging financial landscape for the Australian coal industry, a significant step toward reducing fossil fuels that hasten climate change”.

With that award, Vincent’s work stands alongside previous winners that were at the centre of some of Australia’s most famous environmental battles – from saving the Franklin River to blocking uranium mining.

Climate not weather

Growing up in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, Vincent was no more interested in the environment than most young people. A pivotal moment came when he went to Monash University to do a degree in atmospheric science.

“I wanted to be weatherman,” he says. But among the lecturers on his course was Prof David Karoly – a veteran of Australian climate science. What Karoly and other lecturers outlined to the student Vincent was pivotal.

“I was being confronted with all these charts and it was like I was in on a terrible secret that these scientists were desperately trying to get out.

Julien Vincent with his Goldman Environmental prize
Julien Vincent with his Goldman Environmental prize, in Melbourne. Photograph: Goldman prize

“I could see those charts and their profound consequences. It was off the scale. I was all in by the time I’d finished those first couple of climate science lectures.”

Vincent finished his degree with honours in arts and climatology, but didn’t know what to do with it. He had some savings from working in a bottle shop.

He quit, paid off the lease on his Melbourne flat and took a few volunteer roles and, crucially, a four-month internship at Greenpeace which turned into a job as a campaigner. “I had no money, but I had time,” he says.

In 2012, while working at Greenpeace, Vincent was part of a campaign that blocked a new coal power station being built at Morwell.

That campaign, Vincent says, was successful because it targeted the legitimacy of the project’s income stream…

Read More: ‘Go after the money’: Goldman environmental prize winner honoured for urging banks to

2022-05-25 02:31:00

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