VACANCY: Could you be a Youth Sustainable Finance Champion?

Are you interested in driving finance for positive change? If the answer is ‘yes’, then we would love to hear from you! 

We are excited to be launching our ‘GEFI Youth Sustainable Finance Champions’ initiative, and warmly invite you to apply. The programme, running between March-December 2022, has been designed to enable Scottish-based students to gain practical experience whilst completing their academic studies. If selected, Sustainable Finance Champions will have the opportunity to learn from experts in the field of ethical finance and help deliver genuine impact within a purpose-driven, globally focused non-profit (and be paid for their time). 

Our plan is to recruit up to 3 Sustainable Finance champions, each being assigned a dedicated sustainable finance theme. We do not expect applicants to have any prior knowledge or expertise as this will be developed over the duration of the programme. Our anticipated themes are as follows:  

  • Financing Nature 
  • Financing Climate and Net Zero
  • The ‘S’ in ESG (social impact) 

We will assign focus areas following consultation with successful candidates. 

What exactly can the programme offer me?

Mentorship
Sustainable Finance Champions will be assigned their own mentor for duration of the programme. They will have regular catch ups throughout the year (in person or virtually) to discuss progress and personal development. Additionally, they will also be given the opportunity to shadow (e.g attend external meetings) GEFI team members throughout the year. 

Learning:
A 2-day long training and induction programme will be offered to all the Sustainable Finance Champions, as well as 2x 90-minute bespoke training sessions designed and delivered by members of the GEFI team. 

Insights:
Sustainable Finance Champions will have access to the full GEFI events programme (which features leading experts from around the world), our Efx.Global platform and (where appropriate) external industry events. 

Renumeration
:
All Sustainable Finance Champions will receive a £1,000 nominal fee for the year

Subject matter expertise:
Sustainable Finance Champions will be focused on a specific theme throughout the year-long programme and, using the knowledge developed, will have their content shared on GEFI’s social media platforms and across our global network. They will also prepare a mini report on their subject matter and deliver an internal training session to colleagues. 

What commitments are required?

We recommend that Sustainable Finance Champions dedicate between 2-4hrs a week/10-15 hrs a month to the Sustainable Finance Champion Programme although they are free to set their own schedule and working patterns to fit around other commitments.

In applying to the programme, Sustainable Finance Champions will agree to produce the following over the course of the programme: 

  • 3 blog posts over the year
  • 3 social media posts a week 
  • Host one event at their university over the course of the year  
  • Author/co-author one ‘mini’ report or ‘mini’ project on focus area

To apply to be an impact champion please send your CV and a 500-word cover letter to ellen@globalethicalfinance.org with the subject line ‘GEFI Sustainable Finance Champion Programme’. 


1.5 degrees is alive, but its pulse is weak: the finance sector must step up to save it

Unsurprisingly, COP26 president Rt. Hon Alok Sharma MP did not have much time for television in 2021. Yet, amidst the lull of the Christmas festivities, he too was able to join the billions of viewers who tuned into Netflix’s record-breaking film Don’t Look Up. Adam McKay’s climate change allegory sees a pair of scientists (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) catapulted into an impromptu media tour, as they try to warn the people of Earth that a comet is on course to obliterate the planet in less than six months. 

In his speech at Chatham House reflecting on COP26, Alok Sharma recalled the closing scenes of the film. As walls shake and flames engulf the landscape, DiCaprio’s character Dr. Randall Mindy tells his family who are gathered around him, braced for impact: “The thing of it is we really did have everything, didn’t we, in the end?”, echoing the fact that – as the COP26 President said – limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees is still a possibility, albeit a remote one now. 

The harrowing images of planetary destruction at the end of Don’t Look Up Now remain largely confined to cinematic representations and worst-case climate modelling scenarios, but the sense of urgency felt so acutely by McKay’s central protagonists was clearly visible in Alok Sharma’s speech. At the heart of it was a clear message shared by all of us at GEFI: now is the time to transform the commitments gained at COP26 Glasgow into tangible action and to deliver on the promises set out on the banks of the Clyde just over 12 weeks ago. Doing so, as Rt. Hon Alok Sharma reminded us, is our “last best chance” to mitigate irreversible climate change and avoid what Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley movingly labelled the “death sentence of 2 degrees” if we fail to keep the 1.5-degree target set by the Paris Agreement alive. 

Although the pleas for action underpinning Don’t Look Up are ultimately thwarted by political inertia, Sharma was key to emphasise both the wins achieved at COP26 and the broader reasons for hope. Central to the success of the Glasgow climate pact, he argued, was a sense of collective self-interest. Alongside this shared sense of global urgency to prevent the worst of irreversible damage to people and planet, Sharma was keen to stress that the commitments of the Climate Pact were also born out of the “economic case for climate adaptation and mitigation” shared by all leaders over the course of negotiations. Investing in warning systems and defences, for instance, could yield over 4 times the amount paid in damages, whilst failure to do so will restrain global economy’s ability to grow (the equivalent cost of wiping out 20% of GDP every year). 

At GEFI, we echo Rt. Hon Sharma’s sentiment that finance (and mobilisation of the finance sector) is key to ensuring that the economic gains of a sustainable transition are not lost or left as merely promising words on paper. Alongside what Rt. Hon Sharma cited as a “need to turn our focus to loss and adaptation finance to develop the dialogue started in Glasgow”, his speech also highlighted a further three steps that the finance sector must deliver on, as global attention turns to COP27 and COP28:

  1. Show we’re on track to deliver £100 bn goal 
  2. Encourage firms to deliver with integrity to unleash public and private finance 
  3. Work hand in hand with COP27 Egypt and COP28 UAE to learn from success of Glasgow whilst also engaging with civil societies and young people 

Over the course of our Path to COP26 campaign, we have echoed Rt. Hon Sharma’s call to bring together stakeholders across finance and beyond to raise ambition and drive climate action. Through our Strategic Campaigns, Research & Advisory, Capacity Building, and Practical Solutions we will continue to inspire change and mobilise the finance sector throughout 2022 to deliver the promises of COP26 Glasgow. 

A failure to do so brings us dangerously close to the dramatic scenes of Don’t Look Up. We will have, to quote Alok Sharma, “mitigated no risks. Seized no opportunities. We will have fractured the trust built between nations, and the 1.5-degree target set out in the terms of the Paris Agreement will slip from our grasp.” 

As Sharma ultimately reminded us, “1.5 is still alive but its pulse weak.” If we do not want to look back on a life of abundance that we allowed to willfully slip through our fingers, then the finance sector must be the ones to step up and deliver on the solutions needed to save it. 

Ellen Davis-Walker
Digital Content Executive


EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT | Ethical Finance Round Table: Inclusion and Diversity

Our next Ethical Finance Round Table, taking place on the 22nd February from 14:00-15:30 GMT, will focus on the issue of inclusion and diversity; sign up now. While climate has broken past being a "niche" issue in finance, social issues are frequently neglected in the industry. We will ask whether the finance sector has done enough on inclusion, when it comes to race and ethnicity, as well other social issues including gender and sexuality.

8years on from the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, we still seem no closer as a society to resolving the tensions which brought them about. While these issues pervade society as a whole, the finance sector is a part of society, and this event aims to ask the tough questions of those in finance.

Is the sector doing enough, and what is its role?

Should it focus internally (on its own operations) or externally (on the assets it holds or manages on behalf of clients)?

We will be joined by moderator Amy Clarke (Tribe Impact Capital & GEFI Global Steering Group), Gavin Lewis (BlackRock), Lynne Highway (NatWest Group) and Prof. Alex Edmans (London Business School).


The Path from COP26: Implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact | Ethical Finance Round Table

We heard from a varied panel during this Ethical Finance Round Table who delivered their thoughts on COP26, COP27, finance for nature and more, with a series of interesting presentations followed by a lively panel discussion. Click here to watch a recording of the full session now, or click on the names of each of the presenters - Hakima El-Haité, Ashley Hamilton Claxton, Sefton Laing & Jamie Ervin - to see their opening remarks.

Hakima El-Haité, President of Liberal International kicked off by asking how COP26 has succeeded in meeting the hopes of the global south. She emphasised the need to ask ourselves what we achieved and what is next. This COP26 was meant to show progress in CO2 emissions reductions and ambitions for next 5 years and show trust. The developed world was expected to fulfil its promises, and we missed an opportunity to be on the correct side of history, said Hakima.

Ashley Hamilton Claxton, Head of Responsible Investment at Royal London Asset Management followed, and explained that getting commitments from financial sector is easy; action is the hard part. COP26 has inspired more conversations with clients about climate in the past 3 months than RLAM have had in the prior 8 years. Ashley suggested that we need a bottom-up approach (carbon metrics, bonds etc.) but need to develop a high level plan as to how we are going to achieve NZ and the terms of the Glasgow Climate Pact. She cautioned that there is a risk that finance can become a distraction for policy makers - a panacaea for all of our problems around the environment. Finally, she explained that perfect data is a distraction; data will never going to paint a full picture or be complete and can tell a skewed side of a story but is vital for building tools and systems needed post COP and beyond.

Sefton Laing, Senior Climate and Environment Specialist at Baillie Gifford pointed out that COP26 was the first COP at which Big Finance truly arrived. The commitment to trillion dollar funds is a massive step forward, however there is a gap between allocated finance and practical action on the ground - money is not always regulated or properly allocated if you listen to NGOs. He echoed Ashley’s point about the need for strong governance and shifts towards policy to support the individual commitments we have seen particularly from financial services.

Finally, Jamison Ervin of UNDP highlighted 7 trends from the past year on financing nature and 7 predictions for the coming year, looking at how nature has contuined to shoot up the agenda on both climate and finance, and predicting that it will continue to do so.


GEFI spoke at the Edinburgh Futures Conversations to discuss the future economy

GEFI spoke at the Edinburgh Futures Conversations to discuss the future economy. GEFI founder & managing director Omar Shaikh appared alongside former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Chinelo Anohu, Head of the AfDB’s Africa Investment Forum.

Omar emphasised that the SDGs must be at the heart of the future economy. They go beyond technological advances (no doubt important) to fundamentally reshape the way we conduct ourselves, placing purpose at the centre of the economy. Profit and purpose, the triple bottom line, conscious consumerism are all terms increasingly prevalent in financial markets. Paul Polman’s work at Unilever was a great ambassador for such.

Purpose, he argued, gets us to the ontological question – the question of being, of what the economy is and what it is for. If it is to provide the essentials and comforts of life, then that immediately leads to the question of what is the good life, and how much is enough? This chimes with Adam Smith’s challenge of reconciling between his two great mentors Hutchison and Hume – balancing innate goodness with self interest.

At GEFI’s flagship annual Ethical Finance Summit, Prof John Kay illustrated in his presentation how social purpose had been slowly stripped out of the narrative within annual reports of multinational Plcs since the 1960s towards a nearly exclusive focus on return on equity and financial performance – in effect shareholder primacy.

We now stand at a point in time where the pendulum appears to be swinging the other way: financial markets and the economy are placing purpose alongside profit. This incorporation of ethical values was historically a maligned practice, seen as the domain of ‘tree-huggers’, but that has changed via the demands of staff, shareholders, regulators and customers.

For example, we now see a total of:

  • $35.3 trillion USD in sustainable investment
  • Over $100 trillion USD managed by members of the Principles for Responsible Investment
  • $1trn+ USD in impact investing

Omar concluded by reflecting on the many more areas where the future economy can improve upon the past, especially with fintech readdressing the fundamental intermediation role of traditional financial institutions. Challenges remain, be that around nature and biodiversity or around social issues, from poverty, to inclusive growth, to addictive products such as tobacco and gambling.

Gordon Brown followed, highlighting the importance of recognising global interdependence, suggesting that “global problems require global solutions”, from the financial crisis to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has completely exposed the limits of individualism. There must be a break from the 40-year-old Washington consensus, building a new relationship between state, market and society. In particular, there needs to be a reevaluation of the need for fiscal policy.

He focused on the global failure to distribute vaccines equitably around the world, emphasising that this is not simply an unjust policy, but a self-defeating one, asking what this means for the fight against climate change. We can clearly identify both the problem and the solution, but the ‘us versus them’ ideology of political nationalism prevents us from reaching a mutually beneficial solution. Brown suggested that, in the words of Adam Smith who had been mentioned earlier by Omar Shaikh, there needs to be a “circle of sympathy”.


Job Vacancy: Could you be our next Event Manager?

About The Global Ethical Finance Initiative

The Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) has become the hub at the centre of the ethical finance movement. We undertake advocacy through curating independent conversations among a broad coalition of financial services stakeholders, as well as research, advisory work and delivering practical projects. We are the partner for action on ethical finance.

From our Edinburgh base we are a non-profit with a global footprint. We are supported by the Scottish Government and a number of major financial institutions including Baillie Gifford and NatWest Group. We also work in partnership with global multilateral organisations, in particular the United Nations. Our wider organisation includes the Ethical Finance Hub, Islamic Finance Council UK, SDG Tartan and EFx.global.

With ethical finance moving from the niche to the norm the level of interest in our work has grown considerably. To meet demand, we are now expanding our team and have an exciting opportunity for an experienced Event Manager to join our growing team to lead on the planning and delivery of our diverse programme for 2022 and beyond.

This is a truly unique opportunity to work in partnership with Governments, regulators, financial institutions, and other financial services stakeholders from across the globe.

Do you have the experience, passion, and drive to make a difference within a high-end purpose-led organisation? If so, read on!

Your Profile And Responsibilities

You will report to our Chief Operating Officer and have responsibility for the management and delivery of high quality in-person and virtual global events, including those listed below, through their full project lifecycle.

  1. Our flagship annual global Ethical Finance Summit;
  2. Our international award-winning Ethical Finance Round Table series;
  3. Our pioneering Radical Old Idea series; and
  4. Our Islamic Finance and SGDs Summit.

You will contribute to planning our events including input into the agenda, potential speakers, delivery format, and lead on all practical execution matters. Technical content input for planning and curating events will be provided by GEFI technical team members.

With overall responsibility for event, you will manage relationships with external venues and have responsibility for online delivery platforms. You will help to develop the event branding, set up and manage the ticketing process, detail the event on our website and support the identification and acquisition of high-profile international speakers.

A key requirement will be for you to manage speaker on-boarding (i.e updating tracker documents and collating biographies) as well as organising and delivering planning calls, pre-recording sessions, technical checks and live event participation. As part of this you will own and update our speaker briefing documents. We have developed a first-class reputation for speaker management and take great pride in ensuring our speakers get to the right place, at the right time to talk about the right thing!

You will also lead on event marketing and promotion and will be expected to manage mailing lists and keep websites and social media channels updated before, during and after events. To optimise awareness and registrations you will build and maintain relationships with promotional partners. There will also be scope to contribute to event-related media activity.

For live events, as well as assigning internal roles and responsibilities across the team, you will develop and own the real time run of show and, having assessed risk (such as speaker withdrawals, technical failures etc), have contingency plans in place to enable us to overcome issues and deliver high quality events.

Post-event, you will develop and manage all closing procedures including speaker, participants and partner follow-ups, supplier invoicing, event reporting and web updating.

This is a critical role within the GEFI operation as you will act as the central point of coordination between the GEFI team, external suppliers, speakers, delivery, and promotional partners.

Who We Are Looking For?

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate who has experience in planning and delivering a wide range of in person and virtual events. You will have worked with senior level stakeholders, ideally within a financial services or corporate environment, and have a commitment to driving finance for positive change. You must have first class communication skills, a pedigree for planning and organising, proven delivery skills and an ability to work accurately at pace and independently.

Pre-requisites for the successful candidate will be experience in event delivery and a competence in using MS Office, ticketing platforms (e.g. EventBrite), video teleconferencing platforms (e.g Zoom), web content management systems (e.g. WordPress), e-marketing platforms (e.g. MailChimp) and social media channels (e.g. LinkedIn and Twitter).

Your Skills And Qualifications

  • Degree in marketing, business, or related field or equivalent in experience
  • A high standard of literacy and numeracy
  • A genuine passion and authentic commitment to the social purpose underpinning GEFI
  • Strong project management, multitasking, and decision-making skills
  • Interpersonal skills with an ability to deal sensitively with a wide range of stakeholders at all levels and from across the globe
  • Ability to develop, manage and build relationships with a wide network of organisations
  • Strong attention to detail with the capability to develop / follow processes and procedures to maximise efficiency
  • Proven ability to liaise, co-ordinate and disseminate quality information
  • Ability to deliver under pressure and work to targets and tight deadlines
  • Self-motivated with the ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Ability to work on own initiative and solve problem quickly and efficiently
  • Committed to and have the flexibility to work hours as determined by the business
  • Enthusiastic and responsible team player with the ability to work with limited supervision

In Return, We Will Offer:

  • Full Time and will consider flexible working (such as reduced working day or 4-day week)
  • Attractive salary of FTE £30k - £35k depending on experience
  • Initially home-based with weekly in-person team meet-ups in Edinburgh / Glasgow (requirements will be reviewed considering changing circumstances)
  • 28 days annual holiday (including bank holidays)
  • NEST pension
  • Opportunity to grow and develop your career

How To Apply

Closing date for the applications is: Wednesday 5th January 2022

All individuals are encouraged to apply to this post regardless of race, age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion or belief, marriage, and civil partnership.

To apply, please send your CV and a covering letter outlining your suitability for the role to chris@globalethicalfinance.org.

For further details of the role, please contact: Chris Tait, Chief Operating Officer, 07931 103573

www.globalethicalfinance.org


Natalie Jackson discusses Climate Change and the Impact on Pensions | Asset TV

GEFI’s Natalie Jackson appeared on Asset TV as part of a panel of experts discuss the impact of climate change on pensions.

The discussion focused on the implications of COP26, regulation and investment solutions, and the challenges and opportunities they present. The discussion included some of the reports GEFI has recently released in this area, including the policy positioning paper setting out the key challenges faced by pension funds in their net zero journey and the transition roadmap paper providing practical steps pension funds can take to overcome the key challenges as well as set and deliver on net zero commitments.

The panellists were:

  • Hilkka Komulainen, Head of Responsible Investment, Aegon UK
  • Graeme Griffiths, Trustee, Aegon Master Trust
  • Natalie Jackson, Executive Manager, Global Ethical Finance Initiative
  • Mark Irish, Deputy Head of ESG Consulting, ISIO

Watch now

Aegon – Our route to net zero (film)

Responsible investment web hub for employers


Path to COP26 videos available on EFx

After a successful COP26, all of the videos from our events in and around Glasgow are now available at http://efx.global/COP26.

Across the 2 weeks, we organised a series of events covering climate finance, looking at nature, economics, faith and pensions in detail.


Net Zero Pensions at COP26

The risk posed to society by climate change is undeniable. If we fail to limit global warming to below 1.5°C, as agreed at the Paris climate summit in 2015, catastrophic effects will be felt across the globe especially to those who are most vulnerable. US climate envoy John Kerry stated earlier this year that COP26 would be the "the last best chance" to avert the worst environmental consequences for the world.

The pledges made during COP26 could limit global warming to 1.8°C1 and the commitment of international financial companies through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) to $130 trillion of private sector capital to achieve net zero by 2050 are encouraging but the implementation of these pledges and commitments will be the key if we are to meet the Paris Agreement.

The whole economy depends on achieving net zero by 2050 or sooner but pension funds could play a fundamental role in shifting the economy to protecting the planet, even if governments fail to act.

During COP26 at an event hosted at Glasgow University by the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI), senior representatives from pension funds and asset management came together to discuss net zero pensions. The event was opened with a keynote address from Ivan McKee, Scottish Government’s Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise who noted Scotland’s long history in the pensions industry, with the first mutual life office opened in 1815. He also noted that Edinburgh is now the biggest employer in the UK for jobs in the pensions sector. He highlighted Scotland’s commitment to combatting climate change, being one of the first countries in world to declare a climate emergency, and the need for private sector investment. He stated the ambition for “Scotland to be a superpower when it comes to ESG investment.”

Pension funds are stewards of assets

There was a challenge for pension funds to consider stewardship at the heart of their approach and to invest in a planet that is worth living on. The importance of pension funds playing a role in combatting the climate emergency was highlighted by Faith Ward, Chair of the global body leading change in the sector, the International Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and also Chief Responsible Investment Officer at one of the biggest UK public sector pensions schemes, Brunel Pension Partnership.  She addressed the fears of some pension trustees who see their fiduciary duty as maximising returns by stating that there will be “no fiduciary duty if there is no functioning society or economy”. Pension funds must be active owners of companies to make sure that they decarbonise their operations rather than jettisoning carbon intensive companies from their portfolios allowing big emitters to carry on driving global warming.

Collaboration is key

There needs to be collaboration between government, regulators and industry to deliver on net zero commitments - it will be challenging for pension funds to achieve net zero without collaboration.

During the event, there was a call to government to use regulation and legislation to incentivise   investment in companies that are part of the solutions to climate change rather than part of the problem.

It was highlighted that it is important for asset owners like pension funds to work together through groups such as IIGCC, a membership body with over 360 investor members with €49 trillion in assets   and ClimateAction100+, an initiative for asset owners to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to take necessary action on climate change. Tim Orton, Managing Director of Investment Solutions at Aegon UK stated that “getting to net zero is not a competitive sport it is an imperative.”

Pension funds working with their asset managers to deliver net zero is also fundamental to amplify the change. Faith Ward highlighted that Brunel Pension Partnership has a formal policy on climate change that clearly sets out the expectations for their asset managers.

Net zero is a transition to a destination rather than a quick fix

Reaching net zero by 2050 will be challenging – many pension funds who embark on the journey to deliver a net zero commitment do not necessarily know exactly how they are going to get there. Making a commitment is a signal to the market of the direction of travel. Barry O’Dwyer, CEO of Royal London, observed that the transition to net zero is unlikely to be quick and it needs to happen in a just and equitable way, this was reiterated by Faith Ward who stated that social impacts alongside climate impacts must be considered.

Action must start now

Although there are still challenges to be overcome, sufficient tools exist for pension funds to start taking action now to deliver net zero by 2050 or earlier. The IIGCC’s net zero framework provides a comprehensive strategy for asset owners to deliver on their net zero commitments. Barry O’Dwyer stated that there was “no time to be passive”.

There are challenges still to be overcome

Challenges still exist around knowing how carbon intensive a portfolio is, expertise on climate change in pension funds, and trustees putting net zero at the centre of the governance of funds. David Russell, Head of Responsible Investment at USS, noted the progress that had been made in respect of data but this has predominantly been focused on public equities, access to data for sovereign debt and private markets remains a challenge. It is important to measure the baseline but also note where climate progress is expected and set milestones for companies. Eva Cairns, Head of Climate Change Strategy at abrdn, noted that temperature metrics alone do not tell the full story, other metrics are necessary to identify transition leaders. She also noted that abrdn were currently working on valuing and calculating avoided emissions.

Tim Orton noted that to achieve net zero we need different capabilities than we have had in the past and highlighted the importance of sustainability professionals and governance structures including steering groups on net zero.

Divestment versus engagement

Engagement was seen as a positive tool to drive decarbonisation in the real economy;  divesting from a high emitting company that someone else buys does not reduce their atmospheric emissions and that collective engagement through initiatives like ClimateAction100+ will drive change. It was stressed that engagement with high emitting companies must include measuring where they are now, where they need to go as well as recording the progress made. The Transition Pathway Initiative was identified as a useful tool to assess companies' preparedness for the transition to a low carbon economy.

GEFI has a dedicated net zero pensions workstream and has published two key reports on the topic, the policy positioning paper setting out the key challenges faced by pension funds in their net zero journey and the transition roadmap paper providing practical steps pension funds can take to overcome the key challenges as well as set and deliver on net zero commitments.

View all of the videos from our Path to COP26 programme at https://www.efx.global/cop26/.


Finance for Nature in Nature at COP26

FINANCE FOR NATURE AND COP26

As the exhibition tents, plenary rooms and coffee stalls are being dismantled, and Glasgow returns to a form of normality, one of the overwhelming takeaways from the COP26 Climate Conference was just how important finance and financing nature will be for the journey to net zero.

Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has estimated that $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half of the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and is therefore exposed to nature loss1. Whether you are talking about algae carbon sequestration, women’s empowerment, indigenous land rights or how to create a green jet fuel, much of the conversation was focused on the topic of finance.

The key question is how can we change the financial system to better include nature?

While new public funding pledges were made, in the context of the undelivered $100bn climate finance for poorer countries and the covid pandemic, it is easy to remain sceptical. John Kerry (US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate) highlighted the role of private finance on the first day of the conference. Speaking at the American pavilion he stated that “no government in the world has enough money to fuel this transition as rapidly as we need it but the private sector does.”

While there is disagreement on whether The Glasgow Climate Pact was a success or not, COP26 has left exhibitors, delegates, attendees, protesters, the press and the world at large with the impression that it will matter more than ever now, where we put our money. Money will be our vote as private citizens, as businesses and as countries. It is the driver. It is the tool we can use to put pressure on moving things into a higher gear. Or indeed the thing that will hold us back.

The debate is now one of innovation and transition – namely to the way we include (or continue to exclude) nature from our accounts as Prof Dasgupta discusses, and whether our traditional investment models can accommodate new parameters such as nature, biodiversity loss (upstream or downstream) and social impact.

During the GEFI Finance for Nature in Nature COP26 programme we heard from business and financial leaders, regulators, multilaterals, NGOs and others who discussed frameworks and impact measurements around nature. Despite the recognisable complexity of practical implementation and the interdependency of climate and nature, momentum is building around the critical need for markets to better align to a net zero world.

The development of the TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) was acknowledged as a very useful tool that will help to facilitate reporting on the risks in relation to nature. Andrew Mitchell, (founder of Global Canopy) reflected that “we cannot ignore nature and only focus on climate or carbon. Covid-19 is the perfect example of this. The pandemic is an environmental problem”. Tony Goldner, (Executive Director of TNFD) noted in the same high-level TNFD panel that it is not if but when nature related risk disclosure is coming, however, we still need to create a language around this. Edward Lockhart Mummery (Convenor at the Broadway Initiative) called for the need to “create a new financial architecture for nature investment”. There was also an acknowledgement that there was currently insufficient pricing of externalities in respect of nature and that natural assets needs to be viewed as assets rather than liabilities.

Although GEFI has been looking at financing nature since 2018, regular COP participants expressed their delight that nature has finally being catapulted up the formal agenda. This was noted as being a step change in comparison to previous COPs. Hosting the GEFI nature programme within a beautiful national park provided an inspiring backdrop for participants to move from talk to action. It was also evident that the nature conversation has moved beyond a collection of environmentalists, scientists and policy professionals with financial institutions and corporates willing not to only listen and learn but consider the practical steps they must take to address climate change and protect nature and biodiversity.

Another common theme, despite the criticism that this COP had been too exclusive and elitist, was that young and indigenous communities are key to solving this crisis and their voices must be heard. Indeed, some argue that, as those most impacted by climate change today and in the future, they should be leading the conversations. They should not just be in possession of just a seat at the table, but rather the entire table.

Usha Rao-Monari (Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme) made this point at GEFI’s opening session for Finance for Nature in Nature where she questioned whether young and indigenous communities are being provided with an appropriate platform and, on the occasions when they, are she expressed concern that their voices have been drowned out by the noise. This was echoed throughout the conference noticeably by Elizabeth Mrema (Acting Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat) and Patricia Espinosa (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)) to mention a few.

The GEFI COP26 programme presented several examples of how financing nature and nature-based solutions (NbS) (including community-led project), is not only possible but profitable. So, if financing NbS is key to solving the climate crisis, including financing indigenous peoples, where are we now? Mrs Mrema noted that only 3% of global finance is being spent on NbS - this figure is too low if we are to keep 1.5C alive. The wholly unequal distribution of these resources is a further hindrance.

The question that echoed around the GEFI HQ during COP26 was: is it all too late?

Having explored the halls of the Blue Zone and Green Zone, as well as hosted an array of events throughout the two weeks, there is a dichotomy between those who contend that solving the nature crisis is complex and others convinced that it is pretty simple! Seeing practical examples of how it can be done provide hope but challenges remain around transferability and scale. The confidence boosted by speaking to sustainable finance leader is quickly tempered when the next conversation it with a finance leader who just doesn’t get it.

However, on reflection, the prevailing sentiment is that this is doable. In the words of Professor Stern (leading climate economist) “we have to invest to get there, but we will get tremendous returns. Just look at renewable power”. Despite some media spin the majority of people involved in COP26, and across the GEFI programme, are far from ready to give up. We need to learn from what works, what has not worked and collaborate to ensure that finance flows to the right places, at the right levels and at the right time. This required existing investment models and measurement and reporting frameworks to be redesigned.

Willie Watt (Chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank) stated that GDP is not a sustainable measure of growth, and the sustainability of growth itself has to be reassessed, suggesting big changes are needed. Nonetheless, Abyd Karmali (Managing Director, ESG & Sustainable Finance at Bank of America) noted that ESG has helped move the financial world towards nature-based finance, signalling that change is happening and can happen quickly.

At GEFI we remain committed to raising awareness and inspiring financial institutions across the globe to recognise their role in financing nature. In 2022 we look forward to building on the progress we have made this year by supporting the Biodiversity COP15 in April and the Climate COP27 in November.

We will work to keep the conversation open, relevant and critical to support the industry’s movement towards change, so get involved where you can.

View all of the videos from our Path to COP26 programme at https://www.efx.global/cop26/.