Tighter regs and public pressure turning capital green, UN climate head to tell St Paul’s gathering

Christiana Figueres in major ‘City and faith’ address on climate change and finance

‘Concentric circles’ of influence including rapidly tightening environmental regulations, fossil fuel divestment campaigns and the falling price of green technology are working to shift much-needed private sector capital towards the fight to peak global CO2 emissions and stay below a 2-degree temperature rise, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, will tell a packed St Paul’s Cathedral in London this evening (May 7). Figueres is speaking at the ‘St Paul’s Cathedral Floor Debate Climate Change: Building the Will for Action’ alongside James Jones, the former Bishop of Liverpool, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, Dr Tony Juniper, former Executive Director of Friends of the Earth, and Peter Pereira Gray, Managing Director of the Investment Division at the Wellcome Trust. In a wide-ranging address, Figueres will say that the recently released 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that due to human activity the air today contains 400 ppm of CO2 for the first time in human history. The concentration, she says, has already caused an average temperature rise of 0.8 degrees celsius: “The twelve hottest years on record are in this century, and we are only 14 years into this century! As a consequence, the frequency and intensity of natural disasters is increasing along with their economic costs.”
Striking a local note, she points out that the recent floods in the UK cost up to £14bn in business losses, and adds: “but you may not be aware that only a few weeks ago the UK supermarket chain ASDA reported that 95% of its fresh produce is at risk from climate change.” In a speech fitting for the venue, she notes that solutions “will be informed by our technology, our financial systems and our policy, but it must also be indisputably steered by the overarching moral compass innate to all of us. The crossroads is defined by science.”Figueres will say that despite the global financial system’s historical facilitation of the exploration and use of fossil fuels, this is beginning to change.
Firstly, she notes the proliferation of more than 500 climate change laws in 60 countries covering 80% of global emissions, as well as carbon pricing systems in notable markets like China and California. She also points out that the EU is reportedly on track to generate 20% of its energy from renewables by 2020. In terms of investors, she says corporate disclosure of carbon risk exposure is increasingly becoming a staple requirement, as is knowledge about the risks of potentially stranded fossil fuel assets under tight regulatory scenarios. A report by Carbon Tracker due on May 8 on the growing cost of oil investments, as well as the proliferation of green bonds are both signs of the growing investor response to climate change, she says, adding: “Here in London, the finance hub of the world, the British government is organizing a Global Climate Finance Lab in early June followed by a summit for all economic sectors. And driven by students, universities in the US, UK and Australia are part of a growing movement to divest from fossil fuels. At St Paul’s, I would like to recognize that faith groups and churches around the world are joining this momentum.”
The event is organized by the St Paul’s Institute, CCLA Investment Management, the Church Investors Group and Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England’s national environment campaign.
Tickets for the event can still be registered at http://buildingthewill.eventbrite.com

Christiana Figueres speaks to RI Managing Editor, Hugh Wheelan in tomorrow’s RI interview!