Transforming Society Through Finance

20 May 2019

Sir Roger Gifford, former Lord Mayor of London and Chair of the London Green Finance Initiative, was the keynote speaker at the Guernsey Funds Forum in London in May 2019. This is an edited version of his address to the conference.

These past few weeks have been an extraordinary time for climate discussion and green finance.

We have even seen green issues knock Brexit off the top spot of the news.

We’re on a journey and still very early on that journey, but so much is happening.

We are transforming society through green finance – I do believe in the power of money to change the way that we live.

Assessing the economic risk of climate change is necessary. It has taken some time for consensus to form the right way forward. Carbon dioxide hangs around for a long time, far beyond the normal decision-making horizon.

And there is a fundamental problem of market failure when the societal costs of climate change emissions don’t get taken into account.

No-one today needs to take responsibility for the long-term consequences beyond their urgent traditional short-term decision-making horizon. Dare I say it, that is traditional capitalism, and it represents a clear area of market failure, where governments can make a difference through taxes and politically-mandated limits.

Disclosure standards on climate change risk is only the beginning. What’s important is how each company uses the disclosure to change the way it operates, and this gives us, the investors and lenders, the ability to get really stuck in.

Green is no longer just for environmentalists, and it is no longer a marginal financial product. We’re absolutely not talking about compromising margin – if you compromise margin, this will never fly. This is about risk mitigation and commercial opportunity.

We are looking to find financial solutions to global challenges, and to transform the way we behave financially.

Investors today are asking two questions – how is my investment impacting climate change, and how does climate change impact my investment.

There is the potential for market transformation. We are seeing different types of purpose-led finance – finance with a clear beneficial purpose behind it.

And I believe strongly in global coordination between different sectors. This isn’t really a competition between London, Guernsey and Paris, this is a global problem that we have around climate change, and we have to solve it through discussions and sharing best practice.

There are many challenges, speed bumps and red lights on the road ahead. Actions in society and that the financial community are taking today are almost unrecognisable from where we were a few short years ago, and we are led to believe we are rapidly running out of time.

I think finance has a unique ability to play a transformative role in driving this and offering practical ideas, and we need the right governance, the right risk management, the right data and willing investors and enabling finance centres.

Thank you Guernsey, for what you are doing.

Is it right that Guernsey and London could work together? Absolutely – hand-in-hand, joined up in every possible way. The problems we’re facing are cross-border. If we get the solutions right between us, then the funds flow will be so much greater. It has always been good between Guernsey and UK, we work well together, we can do exactly the same in green and we should work together.

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