Earth ‘too big to fail’, MSPs told

The Earth is “too big to fail”, an environmental activist has told MSPs as she pointed to Covid-19 and the financial crash as evidence of the ability of governments to raise finance when necessary.

During Cop26 in Glasgow, former Bank of England governor Mark Carney announced a £95 trillion package of private finance to support efforts to tackle climate change.

But Mary Church, the head of campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said finance could also be raised by governments in the same way as combating the pandemic and the 2008 banking crisis.

In the UK, Northern Rock was brought into public ownership while shares of RBS and Lloyds were sold to the Government, and a massive stimulus package was passed in the US in the first months of the Obama administration.

“What we’ve seen over the last few years, but over the last decade, is governments can mobilise and they do mobilise this kind of finance when they think they need to,” Ms Church said during a meeting of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee on Tuesday.

“We saw with the bailout of the banks in 2007-08 that sums in excess of £1 trillion were mobilised to support the banks when it was considered they were too big to fail.

“Our planet is too big to fail, our ecosystems are too big to fail – this crisis is too big to ignore.”

Ms Church added: “More recently, we’ve also seen the kind of sums that have been mobilised both here in the UK and globally to respond to the Covid crisis in the trillions as well.”

Ms Church also stressed to the committee that decision makers would be held responsible by younger generations if the necessary action is not taken now and in the near future if the impacts of the world heating by more than 1.5C increase in severity.

“Only a few years ago, the timescales that we were talking about, they were all far off, it felt very safe,” she said.

“(We’d be) happily underground by 2050 and not having to worry about the impacts at that stage, but to think about the impacts of 1.5C hitting within the next decade, pretty much everyone around the table (in this room) and virtually around the table will still be around then.

“Those of us in decision making positions, we will be held accountable for what we have and haven’t done to avoid that really critical 1.5C threshold.”