How can we create a greener future?

Laveta Brigham

Table of Contents As UK citizens, should we all be doing more to make our money matter? Two experts give their view the on the route to a more sustainable society ‘We can all do our bit, but real change comes from the top’Changes to people’s behaviour make up only […]

‘We can all do our bit, but real change comes from the top’

Changes to people’s behaviour make up only nine per cent of what is needed to meet the Government’s ‘legal net zero by 2050’ target, writes Gwen Buck

Ordinary people like you and me want to do all we can to help stop the climate emergency. Anything we can do as individuals is of course valuable, but in reality the Government’s own independent adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has found that changes to people’s behaviour make up just nine per cent of what is needed to meet the Government’s “legal net zero by 2050” target.

Gwen Buck

Policy adviser at
Green Alliance

The majority of action must come from the Government and businesses, which operate the big economic levers: investing in low-carbon technologies and putting policies in place to make doing the sustainable thing the easiest and cheapest option for all of us.

Green Alliance’s recent Blueprint for a resilient recovery report found investing in policies to tackle climate change can also help to create a more equal UK. It could improve public health and create jobs, skills and a stronger economy.

Moving to a more circular economy by improving industrial resource efficiency could, for example, raise productivity and add £10bn a year to the UK manufacturing industry’s bottom line, as well as cut huge amounts of carbon. The scale of such progress is greater than the actions of individuals could ever achieve alone.

The public understand that their own actions must be part of a bigger effort to cut carbon emissions. There was strong agreement among the participants of Climate Assembly UK, the UK’s first-ever citizens’ assembly on climate change, that plans for economic recovery from Covid19 should also aim to reduce carbon emissions. The people who took part were a cross-section of all walks of life – much like the participants in the “Power of Us” events – and they overwhelmingly wanted to see the Government show more leadership.

People power should not be underestimated. As well as the actions we can take as individuals, as consumers and voters we have the power to show the Government and businesses we expect them to lead the way. The pandemic has exposed the fragilities in our society, but out of this we have a unique opportunity to build a better future for all of us. 

Make a difference: channel your interests away from firms and investments that harm the environment

Credit:
Getty

‘Green’ financial products must live up to their names

Don’t be a silent shareholder and do invest in companies that can prove their environmental credentials, says Dr Ben Caldecott

As citizens, how can we force financial institutions and the financial system as a whole to tackle climate change and the other environmental challenges we are facing?

First, we can channel our demand for financial services away from firms and investments that harm the environment, and towards those that make a positive difference. But more than that, you should also be clear publicly (on social media, say) and privately (by writing to them) why you are moving your business; that has much more impact than doing so silently.

Dr Ben Caldecott

Director of Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme

There are many ways to reduce the harm and maximise the positive impact you can have through how your money is invested by you directly or on your behalf. This also extends to your savings products.

Second, a vibrant shareholder democracy can change the behaviour of companies that are contributing to the problem. Use the shares you own, or get those managing shares on your behalf, to advocate for change. Companies that can change should be encouraged to do so and if shareholders are mobilised and apply pressure in a coordinated way, they will change much more quickly.

Third, politicians should compete about how best to deliver the transformation. In the UK, we are fortunate and have a cross-party consensus on climate change. Express support for policies and choices that get us there fairly and efficiently.

Finally, consumers need to have more choice, and the products and services on offer need to make a difference. Financial regulators have a vital role in ensuring financial products and services that are “sustainable” or “green” actually do what they say. Progress is being made, but we should all demand much more progress. If a product is claiming it will do something, it should be clear how it will do it and then be accountable for doing so.

There is no silver bullet. But getting our capital to speed up the transition to environmental sustainability is a key lever and one of the most important ones we have. As citizens we can all do more to make our money matter.

Dr Ben Caldecott is founding director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Programme and the COP26 strategy adviser for finance for the UK Cabinet Office.

The Power of Us

Building greater, more sustainable economic growth can improve the lives of everyone in the UK.

This is the goal of inclusive capitalism: using money and investment as a force for good, to create real jobs and better infrastructure to transform the UK’s cities and towns and tackle the biggest issues of our times such as housing, climate change and ageing demographics.

It’s something businesses, communities and individuals can all get behind and work together to achieve – and it’s why Telegraph Spark has teamed up with Legal & General for The Power of Us, a campaign that aims to identify the challenges facing society, then use some of the UK’s brightest, most innovative thinkers to help solve them.

The Power of Us: the future is in your hands.

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