Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes saves the planet through philanthropy and investment

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Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes aims to help save the planet by pledging more than $ 350 million in personal funds to philanthropic organizations fighting climate change and investing billions more in sustainable businesses and green technologies.


Mike Cannon-Brookes, one of Australia’s richest people with a fortune of over $ 20 billion, is passionate about protecting the environment and saving the planet. He lives and breathes sustainability in everything he does and deploys his own funds to make a difference.

At the end of October, just before the start of COP26 in Scotland, Cannon-Brookes and his wife Annie pledged to donate AU $ 500 million ($ 357 million) by 2030 to nonprofits. seeking to mitigate climate change. With this commitment, Cannon-Brookes leapt through the ranks of the most established names to become one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists.

Yet Cannon-Brookes, 42, wants to do more than be selfless. He also wants to make change with wise investments that do good while doing good. On the same day he unveiled his philanthropic plans, he also announced he was doubling renewable energy, with the goal of investing A $ 1 billion in the sector, on top of the A $ 1 billion he says he has. already deployed through its self-funded investment company. Grok Ventures.

Then there’s the property buying frenzy in New South Wales where he aims to turn large tracts of land into a green paradise through regenerative agriculture, which attempts to reduce the carbon emissions released by l traditional agriculture. Their plans for the properties include raising crickets and other insects as alternatives to protein while using electric tractors and solar power on farms.

“Australia has a big problem with agriculture in general and how we’re going to transition this industry,” Cannon-Brookes said by video call in November. One property close to his heart is a 40 hectare country house in the rural village of Kangaloon, located in an area known for its vineyards, rainforests and waterfalls about 140 km from Sydney. “There are a lot of trees, kangaroos, and wombats here,” says Cannon-Brookes.

The tech billionaire says Australian businesses have no choice but to become more sustainable as environmentally conscious countries increasingly impose carbon taxes on fossil fuel imports and even carbon. stop buying it – a troubling prospect for the world’s largest coal-exporting country (by value). The transition from dependence on fossil fuels to renewable energy “requires both financial and philanthropic investments,” says Cannon-Brookes. “You need a lot of university studies to show how these new technologies work for different areas and regions. “

This is where his donations to Australian groups such as Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE), Climate Council and Rewiring Australia play a major role, especially as Prime Minister Scott Morrison has agreed to cut carbon emissions to zero. of Australia by 2050 at COP26. Cannon-Brookes criticized the plan on Twitter, saying it lacked a clear plan on how the goal can be achieved.

The tech billionaire says Australian businesses have no choice but to become more sustainable.

BZE has mobilized the Australian government to deepen its commitment to climate change initiatives. He pointed out that the country’s fossil fuel exports are under threat as the world seeks to move to net zero emissions faster than Australia’s 2050 target, some of Australia’s biggest coal customers including China and the United States, committing to aggressive cuts. “Over the next two decades, Australia will lose a third of total commodity export earnings and the jobs that go with it, unless major policy changes are made,” BZE says in a study. He estimates that Australia can generate up to A $ 333 billion in annual exports by 2050 if it steps up its investment in zero-carbon exports.

Cannon-Brookes agrees, saying decarbonization is the greatest economic opportunity for the resource powerhouse. He’s partnered with billionaire mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest to harness solar power in Australia’s sunniest regions. The duo are among the main backers of Australian startup Sun Cable, which bills itself as the largest solar energy project in the world. It is building a mega solar farm in the deserts of the Northern Territory to provide electricity to Darwin by 2026, and to Singapore the following year via a 4,200 high voltage direct current (HVDC) submarine cable. km long called Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink).

The A $ 30 billion project aims to create a solar farm that can generate up to 20 gigawatts of peak electricity, the world’s largest battery that can store up to 42 gigawatt hours of electricity, and the longest sub-cable. HVDC sailor. According to Sun Cable CEO David Griffin, Sun Cable will begin raising capital in 2022 to finance the construction of AAPowerLink through a combination of equity and debt as well as financial support from the Australian government. Construction will begin in 2024, with the project expected to deliver 800 megawatts of electricity to Darwin two years later and two gigawatts to Singapore when the submarine cable becomes fully operational by 2028.

“The Sun Cable project demonstrates that there is a huge opportunity for Australia to become a renewable energy export superpower,” said Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council, a Melbourne-based think tank that represents renewable energy companies. “No other country in the world has what Australia has in terms of wind, sun and water. What people like Mike Cannon-Brookes and Twiggy have now realized is that renewables present. a huge economic opportunity.

“What people like Mike Cannon-Brookes and Twiggy have now realized is that renewables present a huge economic opportunity.”

While electricity produced by Sun Cable is expected to provide around 15% of Singapore’s annual electricity needs by 2028, the Southeast Asian nation plans to double its electricity imports to 4 gigawatts by 2035. , according to Sun Cable. This will support Singapore’s ambition to become a regional hub for trade in renewable energy and carbon offsets, Sun Cable co-founder Fraser Thompson said in a statement in October. In the longer term, Asia-Pacific has enormous potential to become a leader in the renewable energy trade, with the region lagging significantly behind Europe in terms of renewables and grid connectivity, a Thompson said. About 12% of the electricity produced by the EU is traded between member countries, compared to less than 0.3% in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Sun Cable.

Australia has installed more than 3 million rooftop solar systems in the past decade, and the Clean Energy Council expects the number of installations this year to exceed the record of 369,000 set in 2020. It has more rooftop solar installations than any other country, with a panel being installed every 44 seconds on average, according to Thornton.

One of the companies funded by Grok Ventures is Australian fintech Brighte, which funds the installation of solar panels in Australian homes. By providing seed funding for the installation of rooftop solar panels, Brighte is accelerating the decarbonization of Australian homes, says Cannon-Brookes. Since its inception in 2015, the company has disbursed more than A $ 600 million in loans to more than 75,000 households, according to its website. “It’s a very good deal,” he adds.

While Cannon-Brookes has invested in more than 20 startups, ranging from makers of alternative proteins to robotics and renewables, by far his most rewarding business is Atlassian, the enterprise software company he co-founded with her classmate from the University of New South Wales Scott Farquhar after graduating. in 2002. Since its debut in the New York market in 2015, Atlassian shares have risen more than 20 times, reaching an all-time high of $ 458 in late October after the project management software maker reported a 34% increase in revenue to $ 614. million during the July-September quarter.

A more than 50% rise in the share price this year propelled Atlassian’s market cap to over $ 100 billion for the first time in October, making it more valuable than IBM. It is his stake in Atlassian that underpins Cannon-Brooke’s massive fortune. The company, which counts NASA, Tesla and SpaceX among its customers, has seen its revenues increase by an average of more than 35% per year since it started trading on Nasdaq, driven by demand for cloud computing platforms. . “We have grown steadily over the past 20 years and we have no intention of slowing this down,” says Cannon-Brookes, who is the company’s co-CEO. But if his green investments and philanthropic giving are successful, he could be known as more than just a tech entrepreneur.


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