The Labour and Conservative approaches will fail. We need to make Britain the world’s green financial capitalby Edward Davey / September 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
Anyone worried that the target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions down to net zero by 2050 is unachievable need only look at the last decade’s dramatic breakthroughs in key technologies and their economics—especially solar and wind. Other technologies, like power storage and carbon capture and storage/usage, are maturing fast.
Instead, the barriers to net zero are now largely political and financial, not technological. From Trump to Bolsonaro, Putin to bin Salman, the combination of populist right-wing leaders with the interests of oil-rich states has set back global action since the 2015 heyday of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Dealing with Britain’s political barriers to climate action may look less tricky in comparison: every Westminster leader talks the talk, and parliament’s select committees are set to trailblaze a Citizens’ Assembly approach to engaging the public in the question of how we move to net zero.
Yet the last three years of inaction by Theresa May, combined with the narcissistic mercurialism of Boris Johnson, suggests British climate policy won’t improve with a post-Brexit Tory administration. Corbyn and McDonnell’s life-long commitment to wholesale renationalisation of energy, transport and water would undoubtedly delay and undermine Labour’s otherwise more credible commitment to climate action. And then there’s Brexit.
None the less, there’s a potential initiative in Britain’s own financial sector that would represent a dramatic advance towards net zero. I call it the decarbonisation of capitalism.
Essentially, it’s a set of new City regulations for banks, auditors, exchanges, debt markets and the pension and insurance industries. These regulations would require not just greater transparency about what fossil-fuel assets British-based financial institutions have invested in, but also about how their business plans move them towards net zero themselves.
The immediate aims are to make Britain the world’s green financial capital, to set new global climate-risk standards and save capitalism from itself. The ultimate objective is to drive a switch of trillions of pounds out of fossil fuels into investment in the businesses and technologies we require for net zero.
Financial regulations will never be as headline-grabbing as wind turbines. But decarbonising capitalism is the big, system-wide idea that Britain and the world need if we’re to get serious about net zero.
Read Rebecca Long-Bailey on the need for a Green Industrial Revolution