PRESS RELEASE | Scotland Stakes its Claim to be a Leading Centre in Finance for a Net Zero and Sustainable Future

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE GLOBAL ETHICAL FINANCE INITIATIVE

SCOTLAND STAKES ITS CLAIM TO BE A LEADING CENTRE IN FINANCE FOR A NET ZERO AND SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

The Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) will chair a Taskforce being launched today by the UN Special Climate Envoy and former Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney; Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes and HM Treasury Economic Secretary, John Glen.

Building on the long heritage and deep pool of expertise in responsible finance in Scotland, aligned with the global connections built over a decade of work in ethical finance by GEFI, presents a unique opportunity for Scotland to position itself as a leading hub for green and sustainable finance. The Taskforce builds on the momentum and legacy of COP26 as governments and financial institutions work together to raise the private sector capital needed for a successful net zero transition and to fund the UN's Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Chair of the Task Force and Global Steering Group Member for GEFI David Pitt Watson said:

"Scotland has a long heritage of leadership in finance from the first public savings banks to the outstanding concentration of expertise in sustainable finance. The momentum and legacy of COP26 presents an opportunity to make Scotland globally competitive as a green and sustainable finance centre.

GEFI has been supported by the Scottish Government and Scottish Financial Enterprise to bring together the leading experts and leaders in the Scottish finance sector over the next three years to ensure that Scotland maximises the opportunity to grow this important finance sector in global markets, creates the skills pipeline and jobs to support this and positions Scotland at the forefront of sustainable finance. GEFI has just completed a two-year Path to COP26 campaign with over 60 global financial partners leading to the Glasgow climate summit and has been working with state banks, financial institutions and asset owners in countries as diverse as the US, Nigeria, Malaysia and the UAE.

GEFI has also announced a partnership agreement with University of Edinburgh to collaborate and use the University's outstanding resources and knowledge to drive forward the development of ethical finance.

ENDS

Click here to read the press release from the Scottish Government

NOTES TO EDITORS

The public launch of the taskforce is at 15:30 on the 28th February. Speakers at the event include:

  • David Pitt Watson, Cambridge Judge Business School
  • Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy
  • Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance
  • John Glen MP, Economic Secretary to HM Treasury
  • Dame Susan Rice, Chair of the Banking Culture Board

The Taskforce will report on progress and policy recommendations to the First Minister’s Financial Services Growth and Development Board, thereby remaining aligned with existing Scottish Government and industry structures for government-industry collaboration.

Over 160,000 people are employed in finance related jobs and £9.5 billion of responsible funds are already managed in Scotland.

The Global Ethical Financial Initiative has become the hub at the centre of the ethical finance movement. Curating independent conversations among a broad coalition of financial services stakeholders, as well as delivering practical projects.

David Pitt-Watson, Visiting Fellow, Cambridge Judge Business School

David is a leading thinker, campaigner and practitioner in the field of responsible investment – with over 20 years’ experience he was working in ESG before the term was coined! He was a co-founder, and former CEO, of Hermes Focus Funds and Equity Ownership Service, which became the largest responsible investment group of any institutional fund manager in the world.

David was closely involved in the setting up of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment and he chaired the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative in the run up to the Paris Climate Conference.

David has been involved in policy making in the UK, Europe and around the world, particularly in the field of corporate governance and financial market regulation, and has written extensively on these subjects. A graduate of Oxford and Stanford Universities he is currently a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University, where he teaches a course on “The Purpose of Finance”. His books have been translated into five languages.
David currently sits on GEFI’s Global Steering Group.

Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, Scottish Government

Kate is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency (which includes Dingwall, the Black Isle and the Great Glen) and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy in the Scottish Government.

Kate is from Dingwall, although she spent part of her upbringing in Glasgow and India. Until she was elected as MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Kate was employed as an accountant in the banking industry. Prior to that she studied History at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh.

As a backbencher, Kate served on the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, the Health and Sport Committee and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. She also served as Parliamentary Liaison Officer for Finance and the Constitution. As well as leading a campaign to ban plastic straws, Kate has participated in several cross party groups at Holyrood including Crofting, Gaelic, Human Trafficking, Palliative Care and Rural Policy.

A fluent Gaelic speaker, Kate made history by becoming the first female MSP to give a plenary speech entirely in Gaelic in the current Scottish Parliament chamber.
Kate was appointed as Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy in June 2018 and appointed into her current role on 20 May 2021.
Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance; Former Governor, Bank of England

Mark was appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance in December 2019. From 2013 to March 2020, he served as the Governor of the Bank of England and Chair of the Monetary Policy Committee, Financial Policy Committee and the Board of the Prudential Regulation Committee.

In addition to his duties as Governor of the Bank of England, he has served as Chair of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) from 2011-2018, First Vice-Chair of the European Systemic Risk Board, a member of the Group of Thirty and the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum.

Mark was born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada in 1965. He received a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Harvard University in 1988. He went on to receive a master’s degree in Economics in 1993 and a doctorate in Economics in 1995, both from Oxford University.

After a thirteen-year career with Goldman Sachs in its London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto offices, Mark Carney was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada in August 2003. In November 2004, he left the Bank of Canada to become Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Finance. He held this position until his appointment as Governor of the Bank of Canada on 1 February 2008. Mark Carney served as Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of its Board of Directors until 1 June 2013


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


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/.