As the implications of Brexit on financial regulations and standards continue to dominate discussions about London’s future as a key international financial hub for green finance, on 8th July 2019 we hosted Sustainable Finance: Opportunities for Brexit Britain to explore the changing landscape of sustainable finance and how business leaders are responding.

The event commenced with three thought-provoking talks from Sir Roger Gifford, Chair of the Green Finance Initiative, Molly Scott-Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West and Manuel Adamini, Head of Investor Engagement at Climate Bonds Initiative.

Taking green finance to the next level

Sir Roger Gifford, Chair of the Green Finance Initiative, spoke on the state of green finance in the UK and internationally, outlining the remarkable changes in recent years in attitudes and opportunities. These changes, Sir Roger said, though painfully slow to come about, have seen the finance and wider business communities recognise not just the environmental crisis and the effect this has on pension funds and company and share value, but also the urgent and critical role the finance industry can take in efforts to tackle climate change. Sir Roger pointed to key actions public bodies are taking. However, considerable challenges lie ahead, of which paramount is identifying impactful green products to finance and help to grow.

Sustainable finance at a global scale

Molly Scott-Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, laid out a series of challenges to the private sector, recognising the shifts in attitude in the business community, but encouraging more ambition. Are we interested in defining some areas of finance as green, she asked, or are we aiming to turn the economy green? Molly pointed out the importance of a just transition as the focus of industry changes and the important role public investment will play in cooperation with private finance. However, finance must seek to be consistent, open and actively build trust with the public and argues for regulatory measures to achieve this and private sector buy in. Molly emphasised that change is coming and those who openly embrace the change will flourish in this new world.

International lessons for financing the climate transition

Manuel Adamini, Head of Investor Engagement at the Climate Bonds Initiative, opened his talk with some “observations from Europe” of the UK’s recent efforts in green finance, noting Mark Carney’s leadership at the Bank of England and the government’s commitment to the net zero target. But Manuel found the UK being surpassed by its neighbours, and challenges UK business, government and civil society to take on board the lessons it can learn from abroad. Manuel identified the major contributors to climate change and the opportunities these industries present for green finance. Manuel called for businesses and investors to put a low-carbon pathway strategy at their core and view green bonds and green financial products as means to an end, not as ends in themselves.