Global finance leaders, including representatives from the UN and both the UK and Scottish Governments, set out the role Scotland’s financial services can play in the fight against climate change.

On the day UN climate body the IPCC issued its starkest warnings to date, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance and former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney; Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes and HM Treasury Economic Secretary, John Glen came together with David Pitt-Watson and Dame Susan Rice to highlight how Scotland can become a world-leading hub for climate finance through the launch of a new Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services, chaired by the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.

Launching on Monday 28th of February, the Taskforce, initiated by Scottish Government with GEFI appointed as Secretariat, presents a unique opportunity for Scotland’s financial services sector to build on the legacy of COP26 by working together to demonstrate global leadership in implementing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) roadmaps. The taskforce opened with, and was underpinned by, a realisation that participants were facing unique opportunity for Scotland’s financial services sector to build on the legacy of COP26 by working together to demonstrate global leadership in implementing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) roadmaps.

At the launch event, Taskforce Chair David Pitt-Watson reflected on the progress of responsible investing in the last 20 years, from setting up the UN PRI in a basement to the 4,000 leading financial institutions taking part now. Following him, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes set out her vision for a sustainable Scottish economy, and explained how the Taskforce can contribute to both this vision and Scotland’s Net Zero success more broadly. It will include representatives from across the Scottish financial industry, building a world-leading cluster and deepenening Scotland’s existing strength in responsible finance.

UN Envoy for Climate and Finance and former chair of the Bank of England Mark Carney shared a similar sense of optimism. He evoked the spirit of Adam Smith and memories of a Burns’ night supper spent with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeonm at which the pair spoke about how Smith’s insights could contribute centuries later, a theme picked up by GEFI’s Wealth of Nations in the 21st Century essay series at COP26.

He went on to explain some of the core goals of the Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero, including:

  • Implementing best-practice transition plans and mapping those into mandatory approaches
  • Phasing down stranded assets responsibly
  • Establishing rigorous offset markets, driving investment into the Global South

The process of aligning core financial market benchmarks with the aims of this transition will not be as simple as flicking a green switch, and nor does it mean only investing in already green companies. It requires mobilising new investment into developing countries, and essentiall – yet polluting – industries such as steel or cement. A coordinated approach, which the Taskforce could provide, has the power to help deliver this investment.

Citing the specific example of climate stress testing mechanisms, Mark Carney reminded us that the mechanisms for broad-scale transitions needed to be embedded into corporates. The critical point to remember, he argued, was that the finance sector is in a position coming out of Glasgow where we are broadly orientated to Net Zero and is beginning to develop the tools necessary to achieve this. As UK Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen echoed in his intervention, the challenge still facing regulators and government is how to provide a clear vision to get there.

One solution, argued Dame Susan Rice, lies in the ability of culture to provide both a top down and bottom up approach. The Taskforce presents a unique opportunity for Scottish financial services to work together and create a globally recognised centre for sustainable and green financial services. Culture is conventionally thought of in terms of single organisations – how can one company improve its own culture – but what the Taskforce could achieve is embedding a culture of environmental responsibility across Scotland’s financial sector.

Wrapping up the Taskforce launch, David Pitt-Watson quoted Margaret Mead, who said that one should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. As the Taskforce launch poignantly highlighted, the small group of citizens determined to deliver the legacy of COP26 is becoming bigger, and the need to change the world ever more acute. The Scottish Taskforce for Green and Sustainable Financial Services represents a critical juncture in making sure that the necessary changes are enacted, and relies on a collective effort to fully shift the societal dial towards Net Zero, and to a sustainable, more prosperous future on earth.

To find out more about the taskforce, and to look at the ways that you can get involved, please visit