The government recognises that to meet the 2050 target it will require ‘unprecedented levels of investment in green and low carbon technologies, services and infrastructure’. It is therefore focussing attention on green financing as it believes the financial service sector has a significant role to play in shaping the UK’s greener future.
The Green Finance Strategy has two key objectives:
to align private sector financial flows with clean, environmentally sustainable and resilient growth, supported by government action; and
to strengthen the competitiveness of the UK financial sector.
There are three strategic pillars to the strategy to support these objectives:
Greening finance – which centres on ensuring climate and environmental factors are integrated into mainstream financial decision making;
Financing green – where the focus is on accelerating finance for clean and resilient growth and improving access to finance for green investment; and
Capturing the opportunity – which aims to cement the UK’s position as a global leader for green finance and ensure the UK is at the forefront of green financial innovation, data and analytics.
Of particular interest to publicly listed companies is the strategy’s expectation that they will disclose climate risk and impact data by 2022, and that such reporting may become mandatory.
Shoosmiths’ sector experts offer up their thoughts on the main themes outlined in the strategy:
Stephen Dawson, financial services sector head:
“This strategy truly shows that everyone has their part to play to address climate change and that while funding green projects is an important building block, the financial services sector has a much bigger role in helping the private and public sectors deliver on the 2050 targets.
“We’re already seeing financial institutions recognise climate change as a key financial risk factor in their decision-making processes, perhaps as more of a reaction to significant increases in insured losses resulting from weather disasters over the past decade rather than pre-empting the issue, but there are the beginnings of a more proactive approach by lenders and the regulators alike.
“We’ve seen HSBC make a longer-term commitment to sustainable funding through the launch of its green finance range for businesses and now we’re seeing the regulators speak up about their desire to embed climate change initiatives within the regulatory frameworks through concepts such as mandated climate related disclosures. No doubt this is just the beginning, with more rules and guidance to come from the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority to drive better behaviours to support the strategy, which is all very encouraging. However, businesses and financial institutions need to be ready and willing to adapt quickly as the scale of the issue can only mean that any changes will need to be implemented very quickly if 2050 is to be achievable.”
James Wood-Robertson and Nick Iliff, joint sector heads, infrastructure and energy:
“This strategy shows that the UK government recognises the importance of putting climate and environmental considerations at the heart of financial decision-making, and the need to encourage and accelerate private investment in clean energy.
“The government has introduced some positive initiatives such as the £5m Green Home Finance Fund established to help scale green finance mechanisms, including home energy efficiency grants, green mortgages, the Green Finance Education Charter, and the expectation for publicly-listed companies and asset owners to disclose climate risk and impact data by 2022. These initiatives deserve support and some praise. There is an overriding concern in the market, echoed by the shadow chancellor in his response to the strategy, that may be “too little, too late” and it is not going to bring the scale of investment required to deliver the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
“The government needs to follow up this strategy with the right policy framework, including binding targets to push through change, and support mechanisms and reliefs to encourage and underpin investment. In turn, the financial services and energy sectors need to embrace and implement the strategy if the UK and the City of London are to meet their potential to be the global hub for green investment.”
Bhavesh Amlani, living sector head:
“In its report issued at the start of the year, ‘UK Housing: fit for the future?’ the Climate Change Committee warned that the UK would fail to meet its binding climate change targets if it does not almost completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings.
“We know that the technology and know-how exists to create sustainable and high quality low-carbon homes but these targets will not be achieved without policy and building standards driving change. In recent years, retrofitting initiatives such as the Green Deal suffered from low up-take and concerns about standards and consumer protection with the government subsequently pulling funding for the scheme, and key policies for new-build residential such as the Zero Carbon Homes scheme have also been withdrawn.
“This strategy supports one of the recommendations of the Green Finance Taskforce in its Accelerating Green Finance report issued last year by committing a £5m Green Home Finance Innovation Fund to help the financial sector develop green home finance products such as “green mortgages” to finance the home retrofit measures.
“The Green Deal is likely to cast a long shadow, however, and more ambitious policy is required to drive change at the pace and scale required to meet our climate change commitments.”
James Klein, technology sector head:
“It is great to see the government setting out its ambition to position the UK at the forefront of green financial innovation and data and analytics. While the number of investors looking for sustainable investment opportunities is increasing, it is often acknowledged that such investments carry assessment and pricing risks, generally down to a lack of analytical capability and information asymmetry. Maturity misalignment is another barrier for sustainable investments with long term rewards.
“The advancement of digital technologies such as, big data, AI, mobile platforms, blockchain and the internet of things, means we now have the ability to address these barriers and thereby mobilise both public and private financing to accelerate green finance investment and support sustainable development. Those involved in the FinTech industry and likely to welcome the government’s recognition of this and I have no doubt we will see significant FinTech innovations reshaping the financial system to ensure it has the ability to meet sustainable development goals.”