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Bank of England on climate change

Nick Roberts | 01 Oct 2015 | Comments

As someone with a professional background in earth and environmental sciences, climate change is a topic close to my heart. Debate is clearly part of a healthy society, but that doesn’t remove my frustration that there is still too much debate on whether it’s really a problem rather than what we’re going to do to tackle it.

That’s why I was particularly pleased to see Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England active in the debate this week (click here for full speech). He aligns climate change to financial stability, which is a language we all understand. I wonder how many of the millions of people that have bought diesel VW cars are outraged because they have been polluting the environment more than they thought versus how many are thinking about it in terms of poorer fuel efficiency and the prospects of having to pay some form of higher taxes – things which will hit them in the pocket? Of course many people will also just feel misled. We’re also about to see the introduction of a 5p charge introduced in England for single use carrier bags. With an estimated 500 billion to one trillion of these bags consumed and discarded around the world annually, we shouldn’t really need financial incentives to reduce usage.

One of Mr Carney’s points which I found particularly interesting was about companies disclosing carbon emissions. Atkins has been involved with the Carbon Disclosure Project – which covers 5,000 companies and investment managers responsible for over $90 trillion of assets – since 2010, both in terms of disclosing our own company data and helping other companies to do likewise. Disclosing carbon emissions in a public and transparent way means it’s measured. If it’s measured it normally gets discussed around the boardroom table, which is where it should sit alongside traditional business priorities. Mr Carney makes a very valid point about having a consistent approach rather than fragmented. Not only would this help investors, customers and employees make more informed decisions about companies it should stimulate competition and a commercial drive for companies to reduce emissions.

I think Mark Carney’s description that we are “lost in the right direction” is apt and preferable to being clear in the wrong direction, but given that so many companies are already signed up to disclosure, the transition to a common approach should be entirely achievable.​