Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday November 4, 2021
New net-zero alliance of banks, funds prioritizes green investment, but key emitters are absent
As a former central banker on two continents, Canada’s Mark Carney has honed the dark art of haranguing and arm-twisting members of the global investment community better than almost anyone.
But his latest task, as the United Nations’ special envoy on climate action and finance, involved some pretty daunting numbers.
Carney, who headed up the Bank of Canada and then the Bank of England between 2008 and 2020, was tasked to find more than $100 trillion US in capital from the global financial community to help drive the transformation of the world’s economy from fossil fuels to a new age powered by clean energy.
“It’s a mammoth transition,” Carney told CBC News at COP26, the UN’s climate change conference, in Glasgow, Scotland.
“It’s absolutely enormous. It’s bigger than global GDP.”
On Wednesday, designated finance day at the Glasgow conference, Carney announced success, of sorts.
“We have banks, asset managers, pension funds, insurance companies from around the world — more than 45 countries — and their total resources, totalling $130 trillion US,” said Carney, $30 trillion more than the target.
Carney says more than 450 firms — including Canada’s big five chartered banks — have committed to supporting the goals of what’s become known as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).
Net zero means countries are no longer adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some greenhouse gases might still be emitted, but they would be balanced off or “cancelled out” by the removal of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases. The concept is similar to carbon neutrality but includes more than just carbon dioxide emissions.
Firms that sign onto the GFANZ agreement are promising to abide by 24 financial initiatives that will signal to their customers, shareholders and investors that they are making green investments a priority.
The initiatives include climate-related reporting of their investments and transparency about climate-related financial risks.
While the agreement doesn’t compel the financial institutions to invest any specific amount of money or put it into any specific industry, Carney says it creates a new framework for them to make green investments.
“It’s about what their clients are doing, what are the emissions of their clients, the people they lend to, the people they invest in,” he said.
However, there are notable gaps.
Big banks from some of the countries with the largest emissions — China, India and Russia — are not part of the agreement.
Nor does it compel signatories to cease funding projects such as coal mines or other ventures that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
But Carney says if such investments happen they will draw both shareholder and public scrutiny. (CBC)