When associations are not taking the lead, there are instances of alliances forming to fill their place and possibly become rivals.

In the case of addressing climate change and emissions, there is now a growing number of splinter alliances, with concerned individuals banding together offering a voice, planning, communications and assistance programs.

In these times of growing concern about the impact of climate change, slow progress in reducing emissions and risks, and the ease of digital communications, these groups are gaining profile beyond their membership and becoming a magnet for collaborations.

In some instances they are gaining prominence in government and mainstream media and are included in consultations, conferences and editorials, sometimes with equal or greater attention that is accorded to the formal associations.

In Australia, climate alliances have already formed amongst farmers, science teachers, veterinarians and professional sports administrators, to name a few.

Farmers for Climate having an impact

A useful example for collaboration and impact between alliances and associations is with Farmers for Climate Action.

Since their formation in 2016, there’s been growing mainstream media coverage of this new group, Farmers for Climate Action. Formed out of frustration at inaction, they are proactive, articulate and incisive in their purpose to change the position of governments, groups and communities, and reduce impact through good preparation and reduced emissions. Initially a small group, they are growing in size and influence.

‘If we organise farmers, graziers and agriculturalists to lead climate solutions on their farm and advocate together we can influence our sector and the government to implement climate policies that reduce pollution and benefit rural communities.’

Farmers for Climate Action

It is possible that this group, amongst others, precipitated the call in August 2020 by the peak body, the National Farmers Federation (NFF) for governments to adopt the 2050 Net Zero Emissions target.

A quick online review of state affiliates of the NFF shows contrasting positions and illustrates the challenge for associations. The Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF) acknowledges climate change and is offering members seminars and programs on adaption, lower emissions and clean energy generation, part funded by the Queensland Government, including promoting sessions by the Farmers for Climate Action.

However, by contrast, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) does not mention climate change, renewable energy or offer events for members on climate change adaptation. This is despite the significant investment into efficiency and renewable energy, including on farms, by the Victorian Government over several years, some previously in partnership with the VFF.

Whatever the reason, the ramifications of these different positions, the VFF’s silence and QFF proactive position, sends a signal to both current and potential members and other organisations about who is engaging on emission reduction and climate change.

Value to associations

I know from professional experience in industry, and in forming strategies, programs and consultations for governments and industries that such alliance groups can grow in sufficient size and influence to splinter or fracture the sector and the formal association. Should such groups continue to operate in isolation it can result in both the splinter and main group being given equal weight and included in various public forums, government roundtables and media commentary.

It is preferable that associations engage with special interest groups. Boards and management will consider their impact and reputation, and whether having a breakaway group advocating in the public domain gaining media notoriety is a wise and long-term proposition.

As the QFF example shows, there are ways associations can benefit by co-ordinating with alliances within their sector. They can take inspiration, learn from actions and share in successful initiatives.

They can also capitalise on the drive and expertise of the people within an alliance to help take action across their sector. They can take the path shown by the QFF for unity, strength and vigour. They can get on board or continue down separate paths.

Read more:

Associations – Opportunities and Director Responsibilities with Climate Change