- Recent actions by the German government and asset manager BlackRock should be applauded, and let’s hope they make a difference
Only a month after a United Nations climate conference failed to agree on the way forward to further reducing carbon emissions, drought, heatwaves, wildfires and floods have added to evidence in support of climate change science. Thankfully state and corporate players have stepped in where rich and developing nations have been unable to reconcile differences over responsibility for cutting emissions. The world's biggest asset manager has elevated climate risk in weighing investment decisions, and the German government has agreed to compensate coal-producing regions with 40 billion euros (US$44.5 billion) for phasing out the use of coal power by 2038, joining European nations in planning exits from the fossil fuel.
Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock, says the threat of climate change is reshaping the financial sector, which now needs standardised reporting of climate risk to protect investors. He says his group will now assess environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors as rigorously as liquidity and credit risk. It is singling out coal with a plan to cut companies with significant thermal coal revenues from actively managed investments by mid 2020. BlackRock is walking away from coal before its investors do. They are becoming increasingly jittery about fossil-fuel risk.
The German government's decision means that the country will stop using coal and nuclear power at the same time, having stopped nuclear power development after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. By the end of the decade it hopes to meet 65 per cent of its electricity needs with renewable power.
Such examples of responsible political and corporate governance are to be encouraged. Hopefully they will make a difference, given rising awareness among young people and their growing impatience with politicians' failure to agree on new emissions deals.
That said, coal remains a complicated issue in China, which will not be able to break its dependence on coal-fired power for years to come. But the nation's inclusion of clean-coal projects in green bonds " fixed income instruments for socially responsible investment " could make it a leader in global warming mitigation.
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