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COVID-19 pandemic is minor compared to threat of irreversible climate change

Mankind is in trouble: climate change is out of control, nothing we are doing right now to reduce emissions is making much impact. Already, Sir David Attenborough said, at the Security Council on 26 Feb 2021, "There is no going back - no matter what we do now, it's too late to avoid climate change and the poorest, the most vulnerable, those with the least security, are now certain to suffer."

He continued: “If we bring emissions down with sufficient vigour we may yet avoid the tipping points that will make runaway climate change unstoppable. In November this year, at COP26 in Glasgow, we may have our last opportunity to make the necessary step-change.”

The only thing that the climatologists, scientists, and experts are agreed on that a massive change is needed at all levels of government, business, and society. We all have a part to play from school children like Greta Thunberg, to small businesses to large global businesses like Merck, and to all types of government from local councils to small countries to the huge countries, such as the USA and China in reducing our emissions.

Sufficient vigour is needed by governments 

The problem, as Sir David points out with his pithy comment about “with sufficient vigour” is that the small, piecemeal – and still very worthy - attempts to reduce CO2 emissions need to be backed by a global campaign by governments which is why he was talking at the UN Security Council meeting. 

It requires governments to persuade maniacs like Bolsonaro, Brazil’s President, that he cannot continue to destroy the world’s lungs – the Amazon’s rainforest – as we will all pay a horrible price. 

AND maybe also reigning in the ‘for profit’ businesses?

Green investing 'is definitely not going to work’, says ex-BlackRock executive

The Guardian article with this headline was published on 30 March 2021, it shows how much work is going to be required from governments to persuade businesses to ‘go green’. 

In the early 2020s, Larry Fink, the Blackrock chairman, wrote in his annual letter, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance. In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.” In future, Fink wrote BlackRock would transition away from investments in companies that “present a high sustainability-related risk” as he launched their green campaign trying to get companies and investors go green.

Citi is following their lead with the launch (with Trade Solutions) of a green time deposit product with enhanced yield. The new fixed-term green deposit gives their clients the ability to invest their short-term liquidity in environmentally friendly projects.

But Tariq Fancy, who once was chief investment officer for sustainable investing at BlackRock and headed their effort to turn Wall Street ‘green’ between 2018-219, has concluded that, “Having looked inside the machine and I can tell you business does not have the will to do this. Not because these are bad people, but because they run for-profit machines that will operate exactly as you would expect them to do.”

He now believes the climate crisis can never be solved by today’s free markets. 

System change is needed

More and more experts believe that system change by businesses is needed, e.g. Apple is to introduce an ESG modifier to its short-term incentive plan that may increase or decrease executives’ annual bonuses by up to 10%. But much more is necessary.

AND governments will also need to impose the necessary regime change, e.g. they will need to set entirely new targets, e.g. The Economist argues, here, that “argue that governments should not lump methane into generalised net-zero climate pledges, but instead set separate targets for methane emissions and start cutting them now.” Much more control and direction are needed.

What can corporate treasury departments do?

One immediate action could be to attend the ACT Webinar on “Sustainability and ESG: what role should you play?” on 22 April 2021, sponsored by REFINTIV, which examines:

  • Where we are today
    • When we say 'Sustainable Finance' and 'ESG' – what do we mean? 
    • Various roles we see treasurers play today
    • Overview of the political and regulatory landscape 
  • Opportunities to drive sustainable growth and leadership and solve potential challenges
    • EU Taxonomy – the impact of proposed changes and opportunities to be exported  
    • Opportunity - Issuance of Green and Transition Bonds and how to stop greenwashing
    • Global ESG reporting and benchmark landscape  
    • Carbon pricing
      • What is happening and how to compare the performance of peers
      • How to understand and report on Scope 2 and 3 emissions.

PERSONAL embarrassing questions

But have you personally done anything specific to lower your and family emissions, such as:

  • Replacing your gas boiler with a heat pump?
  • Replacing your petrol/diesel car with an electric one?
  • Installing cavity wall insulation in your house?
  • Deliberately cutting your air travel?

How many of our readers can say “Yes” to any of these questions? Let alone all of them.

As Tesco says in their annoying advert, “Every little helps”. We can individually make a difference, particularly, if millions of us do it. We cannot just rely on governments.

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