Earlier this week I was delighted to attend UKSIF’s Autumn Conference, where speakers from across the financial services sector discussed key topics such as the impact of the political environment on the green agenda (spoiler – it’s big); recent changes in the regulatory landscape; and the critical role of biodiversity. Green Party MP for Brighton, Pavilion, Caroline Lucas also took centre stage to provide a no-holds barred view on the “fundamental mismanagement” of the economy and what we need to turn this ship around and hit our Net Zero ambitions.
The discussions were wide-ranging and incredibly thought-provoking, but my top take-aways around how we are going to reach Net Zero were:
1. The UK needs a robust regulatory framework
Regulation, clearly designed for Net Zero and nature, which provides the right signals to finance to invest, will unleash capital where it’s needed most. If people can trust that Government regulations are here to stay, it will incentivise huge investment in sustainability – enabling the UK to re-position itself as a global climate leader and simultaneously help to solve the climate crisis. Essentially, Government support and signalling is our Golden Ticket to a sustainable future (Rishi, please take note).
2. Biodiversity isn’t just a “nice to have”
As Caroline Lucas so aptly put it, “nature fundamentally underpins human wellbeing.” If we continue to eradicate biodiversity, all other climate goals will be missed. While the UK has signed up to the 10 Point Plan to bridge the global nature finance gap, we still have some way to go to successfully funnel finance into this crucial area. The good news here is that the data around biodiversity is becoming increasingly accessible and with COP15 (the biodiversity COP) kicking off in less than a month – action is going in the right direction.
3. Consumer education is critical
Industry conversations around taxonomies (of which there are 30, globally), ESG transaction flow and ensuring a Just Transition are, of course, essential. However, what we need to remember is how to communicate this to the end investor – the general public. So much of what needs to be done comes down to behaviour change – with investors voting with their feet, asking probing questions of their fund managers and making sustainability part of the growth agenda. Consumer understanding and awareness around what Net Zero really means is low and, as WA’s recent research highlighted, confusion reigns when consumers are asked what they are actually investing in.
While it’s brilliant to hear the financial industry unite in its desire to hit Net Zero and show that solutions really are at hand, let’s not forget that we need to bring the main audience – the end consumer – along with us. Clear communication and time spent educating the public on what the industry is doing, and why, has a crucial role to play in achieving our sustainability goals and delivering a future to be proud of.