London Climate Action Week roundup
July 11, 2019
Last week the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched the first ever London Climate Action Week (LCAW) (1-8 July). The week saw a series of events and activities, held by governments, businesses, and civil society, across London to raise awareness and highlight the actions that London and the UK have been undertaking to tackle climate change.
It’s been a good dress rehearsal for 2020, where the UK is primed to host the important United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP26, the annual UN meeting on climate change. Here’s a roundup of the top five highlights this week from the perspective of PwC's sustainability and climate change team:
The UK launches the Green Finance Strategy
The long-anticipated Green Finance Strategy (originally scheduled for Spring 2019) was released on Monday 1st July. It followed the high profile announcement by the UK government the prior week to legislate net zero emissions by 2050, the first major economy to do so. The Green Finance Strategy was a natural follow-up. The headlines were concise but powerful: Greening Finance and Financing Green. The strategy also aims to position the UK to capture national and international benefits that could emerge.
The more detailed actions in the strategy are not particularly surprising, as they build on ongoing work, for example setting expectations for all listed companies and large asset owners to disclose the risks posed to their business by climate change in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations by 2022; or using the International Climate Finance and Prosperity Fund budgets to collaborate internationally with emerging economies on green finance.
Since PwC’s sustainability and climate change partner, Jon Williams, is a member of the Task Force and Co-chair of the workstream developing recommendations for the Financial Services sector, this is welcome news. We have already seen the TCFD recommendations being considered in a number of front-runners, and the Green Finance Strategy signals further scrutiny from the government on how businesses are exposed to climate-related risks.
Emphasis on Climate Resilience: Time to Act
In recognition of the need to raise ambitions by 2020, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on global leaders to come to the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Summit will be focusing in six areas, and the UK is co-leading with Egypt on the resilience and adaptation track. As the lead up to the Summit, during LCAW an event hosted by the UK Department for International Development aggregated the great and the good of those working on climate change internationally set to feature key priorities on climate resilience for the September summit on public and private finance, disaster risk reduction, and resilient land use and eco-systems. Keynotes by the UK International Development Secretary of State, the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources from Gambia, and the Minister of Water and Environment from Uganda, all outlined the importance of taking actions bolder and more urgently on climate change.
Infrastructure and financing have been a clear theme in the event, with significant emphasis on the need to bring together different forms of expertise when looking to finance climate resilience initiatives, which can often be considered more nebulous than carbon reduction infrastructure projects. This includes dealing with and managing uncertainties and long time horizons (e.g. when does a disaster strike and how severe will it be?). It also needs to address free rider and aggregation challenges due to diffused beneficiaries (e.g. who benefits from and pays for a flood wall?). It was clear that there is momentum and actions are emerging, but we are yet to see solutions at scale.
The Infrastructure and Cities for Economic Development (ICED) facility, managed by PwC, has supported Department for International Development (DFID) in its infrastructure and cities initiatives for resilient, inclusive and transformative economic growth. As the programme draws to a close in the coming months, we are examining the extent to which climate resilience (and carbon reduction) can be mainstreamed in further infrastructure planning. We are identifying the lessons that have been learnt so we can share how to do this better and at scale, going forward.
Local action and local impacts
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) may be responsible for a spike in tourism to a number of vibrant central and eastern European or central Asian cities with the EBRD’s Green Cities event, featuring its support to these cities. As a development bank, again finance was a key thematic topic for the event, but also more fundamentally EBRD has actively reshaped how it supports city governments in making their cities more sustainable and green.
PwC has been supporting the Green Cities programme, working in Sofia, Bulgaria and Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina to develop a Green City Action Plan (GCAP). These identify, prioritise and connect cities’ environmental challenges with sustainable infrastructure investments and policy measures. Following a year of heavy stakeholder engagement with key actors in each city, the two GCAPs are now going through their final iterations. These two policy documents will be adopted by the cities in the autumn and provide a practical list of actions, with suggested funding mechanisms for each city to implement.
How much is one tonne of CO2?
Closer to home, PwC’s giant orange CO2 bubble has made a return in our More London office to mark London Climate Action Week Our bubble - pumped with air to contain the equivalent of one tonne of CO2 - made its first appearance in our offices in 2015, a historic year when governments around the world committed to the ambitious Paris Agreement to tackle climate change and limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels.
This striking installation demonstrates the scale of the problem, to our staff and clients, as well as passers-by in the More London Riverside estate. In the UK, emissions per person per year are currently around 5.4tCO2; that’s nearly five-and-a-half giant orange CO2 bubbles for each of us. We polled colleagues on their personal commitments to reduce or limit emissions, and around two-thirds vowed to eat less meat, and a third pledged to switch to renewable energy and offset their flights.
Our Planet: Our Business
To close the week we held a special screening of Our Planet: Our Business, a new film produced by WWF and Silverback Films and inspired by the original Our Planet Netflix series. The c. 40-minute film explores the immense value of nature to our economy, the scale of the environmental pressure on natural habitats around the world, and the critical role that business can play in creating solutions at scale.
Our Planet: Our Business draws on footage taken over several years using the latest technology to create never-seen-before shots of the natural world. It also features scientific, world and business leaders, who share their thoughts on this topic including the critical impact on businesses, should nature collapse.
Following the screening, we hosted a discussion with around 30 sustainability practitioners from a range of companies and public sector organisations to discuss the topics raised in the film and the possible solutions.
This stunning, important yet challenging film, Our Planet: Our Business, is now publicly available to view at ourplanet.com/business.