Archbishop in plea to investors to help tackle climate emergency
The Archbishop of Canterbury has said investors have not “stepped up to the plate” in efforts to help avert the climate crisis.
The Most Rev Justin Welby described climate change as “the most pressing investment challenge of our time”, and urged the investment community to take “environmental, social and governance factors” into account when making decisions.
Mr Welby’s comments come a day after he confirmed he would be willing to chair a citizens’ forum on Brexit “in principle” after being approached by senior MPs, but conditions on him accepting the role “have not yet been met”.
In a video message for the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) ahead of this autumn’s world summit on ethical finance in Edinburgh, Mr Welby said: “Money is not morally neutral – it can do harm and it can do good.
“At the very least it is the responsibility of investors to take account of environmental, social and governance factors in their investment decisions and in their stewardship of their assets.
“At its best, ethical finance can drive positive change in the world, while still being responsible for its investors.
“It can ensure that while meeting investors’ risk return requirements, investments benefit people and planet.
“I’d like to focus for the next few moments on the most pressing investment challenge of our time – climate change.
“Because frankly, the investment community has still not sufficiently stepped up to the plate on this.
“I’ve seen for myself the devastation of climate change – I’ve seen it in the Niger Delta, I’ve seen it in Fiji when I travelled there last year, hearing children’s stories of how rising sea levels are affecting life there.
“The average global temperature has already increased by one degree from pre-industrial times, and still greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.
“The situation we find ourselves in has rightly been called a climate emergency.
“We know it’s unquestionable that investors acting together can influence outcomes on everything, including climate change.
“It is in investors’ power to help avert the disastrous consequences – ethical and financial – of failing to achieve the Paris goals.
“Passive investment, with investment decisions controlled and influenced by the algorithms and index calculations, may be the right investment solution for many, but passive stewardship is the answer for no-one.
“All investors can make a difference by engaging and voting determinably in support of the Paris Agreement.”
The ethical finance summit on October 8 and 9 will bring together global leaders in business, politics, banking and investment with the aim of shaping a fairer finance system.
The United Nations, the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority, RBS, Baillie Gifford and HSBC, plus 500 senior representatives from more than 200 companies and organisations, are expected to be in attendance.
On Tuesday, Mr Welby said: “It is an unexpected privilege to be asked to chair this proposed citizens’ forum on Brexit.
“In the past this kind of gathering has, in many places and in difficult situations, opened the way for careful deliberation if at the right time and genuinely representative.
“I am honoured to be approached and would be willing to accept in principle, subject to some conditions which have not yet been met.”