Times of radical change

by | 3 Apr 2020 | Sustainable Finance

Times of upheaval are always times of radical change.

It is not unimaginable that the experience of Covid-19 could help us understand climate change differently. And from this perspective, many believe the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation chance to remake society and build a better future, addressing not only the climate change issue, but more globally reshaping capitalism.

In every country, there are many examples of the power of the human spirit. Doctors, nurses, political leaders, and ordinary citizens demonstrate resilience, effectiveness, and leadership. That provides hope that men and women around the world can prevail in response to this extraordinary challenge.

Quoted by the Guardian, Margaret Klein Salamon, a former psychologist who now heads the advocacy group The Climate Mobilization, summarizes it this way : “What is possible politically is fundamentally different when lots of people get into emergency mode – when they fundamentally accept that there’s danger, and that if we want to be safe we need to do everything we can. And it’s been interesting to see that theory validated by the response to the coronavirus. Now the challenge is to keep emergency mode activated about climate, where the dangers are orders of magnitude greater. We can’t think we’re going to go ‘back to normal’, because things weren’t normal.”

In this context, the delaying of the COP26 UN climate change conference, originally scheduled to take place this November in Glasgow is not necessarily a bad news.

  • The original start date of 9 November was days after the US presidential election. “American voters are increasingly likely to reject Trump’s science denial on both coronavirus and climate change and instead elect Joe Biden president,” said recently Paul Bledsoe, a former climate adviser in Bill Clinton’s White House, now with the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington. The United States will no longer be seen as an international leader because of its government’s narrow self-interest and bungling incompetence. But at least, Joe Biden might have the chance to re-establish US climate involvement.
  • Chinese leaders now know well that China’s century of humiliation from 1842 to 1949 was a result of its own complacency and a futile effort by its leaders to cut it off from the world. By contrast, the past few decades of economic resurgence were a result of global engagement. In the post-COVID world, it’s likely it will remain, with – let’s have a dream – a sincere involvement in climate and biodiversity issues.
  • Globally, European Union didn’t demonstrate an ability to be up to the events. But the recent statement by Frans Timmermans showed a renewed commitment to address the climate crisis : “We will  continue to work intensively through all available channels with our partners around the world to share our plans and to encourage them to raise ambition too, and to work together on other key elements of the global climate agenda, like sustainable finance and adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change.” he said

As stated by this statement, sustainable finance will be one of the issues (among many others) we will have to deal with in the aftermath of the crisis. Disclosures will need to demonstrate a material involvement by companies to build resilient business models (investor type of audience), without external impacts on environment and the society (consumers, civil society, employees … and investor type of audience).

In reaction to the postponement of the COP, Nicholas Stern, one of the world’s leading climate economists said : “There is an opportunity in the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis to create a new approach to [economic] growth that is a sustainable and resilient economy in closer harmony with the natural world. That will be the challenge and opportunity of Cop26 next year. We must use this time well.” 

Times of radical change …

Iconography : SAGD Pipe construction, Sunshine Oilsands, West Ells SAG, Alberta, Canada © Louis Helbig