[Originally published 22 April 2019]
In the run up to Earth Day today, the last seven days have been an interesting and indeed unprecedented time for climate change! What was a concern only for the public, our youth and activists has now spread to central banks and fund manager who are publicly expressing their concern about the impact of climate change. It is starting to be a money issue which is a step in the right direction for things to change.
On Monday, Extinction Rebellion rebels set up protest camps all over London, blocking traffic and holding sit ins, calling for climate justice as a matter of urgency.
Next we saw an announcement from Legal and General: 'The world is facing a climate catastrophe and businesses around the world must address it urgently or face the ultimate sanction for a public company, shareholders who refuse to back them any more.' As the BBC reported, "That is not a message from an environmental action group but from the largest money manager in the UK, Legal & General Investment Management, which manages £1 trillion worth of UK pension fund investments."
Then the European central banks entered the debate. Again as reported by the BBC, Bank of England governor Mark Carney and head of France's central bank François Villeroy de Galhau set out the dangers to the global economy in an open letter. "If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist," they wrote. The letter was co-signed by the chair of the climate-focused Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS). The NGFS is a coalition of 34 central banks which was formed in 2017, with the Bank of England as a founding member. It released its first major report into climate-related financial risks on 17 April.
David Attenborough issued his call to arms in the strongest terms possible in his latest documentary, saying climate change is the major challenge facing the world.
Rapper Lil Dicky joined in with the release of his 'Earth' music video to raise awareness about climate change with help from around 30 other artists including Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Inspirational Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg stood up in the European Parliament and took MEPs to task for having three emergency summits about Brexit but none on climate change. Developing her theme, many UK law firms now have a partner in charge of coordinating advice on Brexit but which will be the first to appoint a "Chief Climate Change Officer"? A partner who can lead the debate for their firm and who will lead a collaborative effort internally and externally on how lawyers can play their part in the big debate? How can they help their clients adapt to the new order? Many firms talk about innovation but how they step up on climate change will be a gigantic innovative challenge all on its own. Who will be first?
They [the European central banks] suggest that companies must "integrate the monitoring of climate-related financial risks into day-to-day supervisory work, financial stability monitoring and board risk management". In simpler terms - businesses need to make climate change planning an everyday thing. But most importantly, they call for more collaboration within the financial sector, with different companies and bodies sharing information about how they are dealing with these climate risks: "An important element to achieving effective consideration of climate risks across the financial system is to support internal and external collaboration".