BONUS: Richard Curtis, Amina Mohammed, Mark Carney, Christiana Figueres and More On Making Your Pension Clean Up

This week, a bonus! Our own Christiana Figueres spoke at the Net Zero Pensions Summit, hosted by Richard Curtis, the famous filmmaker and co-founder of Make My Money Matter, an organization elevating the voices of citizens to demand that pension funds invest in line with the values of their members.

In this episode you’ll hear from:

 

Richard Curtis

Filmmaker | Co-Founder of Make My Money Matter

 

Alok Sharma MP

COP26 President Designate

 

Mary Robinson

Chair of The Elders | Former President of Ireland | Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

Amina Mohammed

Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations

 

Nigel Topping

High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26

 

Mark Carney

UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance

 

This bonus episode gives you a flavour of the Net Zero Pensions Summit, and we hope it will propel you to take a step and logging it on CountUsIn.org.

 

Enjoy!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Paul Dickinson: [00:00:12] Hello and welcome to this special bonus episode of Outrage + Optimism. I’m Paul Dickinson.

There is no doubt that asset allocators, that’s the pension funds of the world, they have a huge role to play in the transition of the energy sector, in infrastructure and the built environment. In fact, today they have 50 trillion US dollars worth of assets. That’s about half the GDP of the whole world. It’s a huge amount of money. And in case it’s not obvious already, pensions are our money, our retirement savings invested on our behalf.

So of course, we want these funds to be financially successful, which means we have enough to retire on. But increasingly we’re finding that we want to know what they are financing. And sometimes we’re shocked to find out how pension fund investments are totally contradictory to our own values and principles. This week, our own Christiana Figueres talked to the Net Zero Pension Summit hosted by Richard Curtis, the famous filmmaker and also a serial co-founder of campaigns. Richard’s most recent campaign organization is called Make My Money Matter and working with the Count Us In campaign globally. Make My Money Matter is elevating the voices of citizens to demand that pension funds invest in line with the values of their members. Now, on the other side of the coin, this podcast has heavily promoted the role of shareholders in moving fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Chevron and even redesigning their boards. 

 

[00:01:52] Did you know that the largest shareholders in these companies are often pension funds? So imagine the power of your pension. If your pension invests in line with your values, they will be on track for net-zero. And if they’re on track for net-zero by 2050 at the latest throughout their portfolios, well, they are then going to need to use their immense power to totally change the economy. This bonus episode gives you a flavor of the net-zero pension summit, and we hope it will propel you to take a step yourself and lock it on countusin.org. Now, without further ado, let’s hear from these fantastic people. First of all, Richard Curtis, filmmaker and co-founder of Make My Money Matter. Alok Sharma, COP26, president-designate. Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders, former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. The wonderful Nigel Topping, high-level climate action champion for COP 26, and Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, as well as our very own Christiana Figueres, co-founder of Global Optimism and former Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Convention. Enjoy the discussion.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:03:13] Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Net Zero Pension Summit. I’m sorry we can’t be all together in some big hall, but on the other hand, I’m glad you can all sit back, relax, kick off your shoes on this hot day, loosen ties if you’ve got them, and drink wine or water or lemonade. I’m feeling especially relaxed because I feel like Pete Best, you know, the fifth Beatle. Everyone else in the summit is so brilliant and well qualified to talk, so no one’s expecting that much of me. But what I have got is huge enthusiasm for this subject. Just to quickly introduce myself, before I introduce everybody else, I’m the writer of lots of dodgy romantic films that made Hugh Grant so rich and so unhappy. But in order to compensate for that, over the years, I’ve found it and always been part of Red Nose Day and Comic Relief. I worked on the Make Poverty History and Live Aid campaigns, and I’m now a UN advocate for the Sustainable Development Goals. I’m going to say more in a moment, but now I just want to say this is a massive thing. There’s over fifty million dollars in the pension pots of the world. And every time that I’ve ever made a film for the UN, I’ve always said we have to turn the billions into trillions to set the world right. And that’s why I helped co-found Make My Money Matters so that we can help make those trillions invested in pensions, do just that, make a better world.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:04:46] Pensions for many of us, the single biggest weapon that we have in our armoury to fight for justice and against poverty, and against climate change. So it would be a huge win if that pension money could be applied to a radical and exciting future so that we all actually inherit pensions in a world that is fit for purpose for the future. But why was I Pete Best when you could have Paul McCartney? Well, Mark Carney. Mark has been a strong supporter of net-zero pension since we first went to see him in his room full of gold at the Bank of England, and he is our first speaker today. Mark, over to you.

 

Mark Carney: [00:05:27] Thank you very much, Richard. I’m envious, you sitting there in warm weather, drinking wine, ties off. Except for yours, because you’re so serious. I put you down as George Martin to set the record clearly because you brought us all together and really catalyzed this movement and full credit to you and your colleagues. It’s a great pleasure for me to be part of Make My Money Matters Net-Zero Pensions Summit. I’m joined by my friends and colleagues, the COP president-designate Alok Sharma who’s going to speak later, and Nigel Topping, who’s of course, the high-level champion for climate action. I’m going to say a few words on how the financial sector, and particularly pension funds, can help solve the climate crisis. And let me maybe acknowledge upfront the immense responsibilities our pension funds have, which is to secure the retirements of their beneficiaries of all of us. But the question is, what will that future be like? Is it going to be a world plagued by a growing climate catastrophe or one that is finally on a path to sustainability? Given we need to reduce emissions by up to 50 percent by 2030 by the end of this decade, what pensions do today matters for our beneficiaries and indeed all of us tomorrow. And people around the world are choosing sustainability. There’s 126 countries that have now committed to reaching net-zero. Governments are putting in place policies to reach that goal. And Alok and his colleagues, COP26 are working tirelessly to raise climate ambition and climate action for Glasgow. Now pension funds, as you just mentioned, Richard, overseers of 50 trillion dollars globally, have a critical role in ensuring that there is a successful transition to that net-zero objective.

 

Mark Carney: [00:07:17] Addressing climate change is obviously in the world’s interests, but increasingly, pension funds recognize that it’s also in their interests. Because climate risk is investment risk, the scale of stranded assets is only starting to be appreciated, not thinking about terminal value in a world on the road to net-zero could well prove terminal for some portfolios. Moreover, addressing climate change is an enormous commercial opportunity. Achieving that zero requires a whole economy transition. That means every company, every bank, insurer, investor will have to adjust their business models. And in the process, it’s turning an existential risk into, what I’d argue is the greatest commercial opportunity of our time. I mentioned that 50 trillion earlier, well over three and a half-trillion dollars per year is needed for investments in sustainable infrastructure alone. That’s on some estimates. The International Energy Agency a few weeks ago suggested that the figure is another trillion dollars higher, every year, for the energy sector. So any way you look at it, the opportunity is unprecedented. And thankfully, private finance is beginning to seize this opportunity. 

 

Mark Carney: [00:08:34] In April Nigel Topping and I, and others, launched the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, or GFANZ, which brought together the world’s biggest banks, asset managers, insurers, asset owners, including, some of the largest pension funds and some of whom were represented here today. GFANZ in all brings 160 firms who are responsible for over 70 trillion dollars in assets. And they’re going to work together to help accelerate the transition of the financial sector. But ultimately, what matters, the global economy to reach that net-zero goal by 2050 at the latest. At the heart of it is the UN convened Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, which includes those pension funds. And I’ll just close by saying a couple of quick words about the private finance strategy for COP26 and how it’s going to provide the tools, the information in the markets so that pension funds and others can assess and manage climate risk, and seize the related opportunities to improve the information provided by companies, the information you need, in order to seize those opportunities.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:09:48] We are working towards a common mandatory framework for climate risks based on the TCFD recommendations. The UK’s leading the way by making these TCFD disclosures mandatory by 2025 for all companies, and other countries are now following suit. And in parallel, and this is critical, international standard setters are taking action, particularly the IFRS, whose reporting standards will reach into one hundred and forty countries. And the IFRS is looking to establish the Sustainability Standards Board by Glasgow. Now, of course, this is about managing risk and we need to mainstream climate risk management, pension funds have central roles. And in doing so, your long-term investors, you have long-term liabilities and therefore you’re amongst the most vulnerable to the financial risk posed by climate change. At the same time, your horizon provides an opportunity to be at the frontier in investing in the type of climate-resilient infrastructure and in catalyzing the decarbonization the economy needs. And as a sector, you’re hugely influential in aligning other parts of the system, such as asset managers, proxy advisors, and companies themselves towards net-zero objectives. Now, finally, of course, what’s critical is to move beyond commitments, but actually to align portfolios to that net-zero transition and to be able to communicate that to those you serve. And to that end, the TCFD will be consulting later this month on best practice for portfolio alignment metrics, and it will issue final guidance in this critical tool just before COP26.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:11:30] Now, as Richard and his colleagues Make My Money Matter have emphasized, investors, including pension funds, need to provide answers. Transparent, readily understandable answers for when their clients, people, ask whether their money is being invested in line with their values, in line with the transition to net-zero. The challenge to the industry is to make a material and meaningful metric so that people can make their money matter. This campaign is a catalyst that the financial sector and citizens need to support the transition and it also is supporting the financial sector as you implement your commitments to net-zero alignment. Working closely with us in the private finance hub with COP26 and directly complementing GFANZ, that gold standard for net-zero commitments and climate action. So do that end, I compliment those of you who are engaged for your leadership. I would urge those who are considering to take the plunge, to join the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance to help people make their moneys matter and secure a sustainable and prosperous future for all.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:12:42] Thank you very much, Mark. Very good of you to join us, especially since it’s pretty early in Canada. But you do look morning fresh. I will take off my tie later because I always follow where you lead. I hope it’s OK before our next speaker. If I just say a few words. People, especially young people, changing the food they buy, the clothes they buy, the way they travel to fight for justice and against climate change, and employers are increasingly seeing that not only are the consumers demanding action, so are their employees, they do expect the companies they work for to be doing the right thing. And they’d rather work for people who are. One of the big things that companies can do is offer sustainable pensions as a matter of principle. And the strength of the situation, which has been so great, is that this is not, as I kind of originally feared, an adversarial situation, as you’re about to hear because pension providers and government are really thinking hard about this, moving in this direction. And so in the course of the last year alone, 15 U.K. pension schemes with some 25 million pensions, nearly five hundred billion dollars in assets have committed to net zero. And business likewise is in on the journey too. Just last week, 50 organizations from IKEA to Oxfam, EY to Ella’s Kitchen signed up to a Green Pensions Charter, which joins the call for a net-zero pensions industry. Now, you will know I’m no financial expert, but the sums of money are huge and it’s very clear that people with power, many of you watching in the world of investment are the real necessary heroes of the hour. They are in pole position. They’re the Lewis Hamilton in the race to net-zero, there to set the pace and fight for climate actions that we need. I’m really delighted that you’re all here today. And my message is really simple.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:14:40] Just don’t let this one lie to put it off till another day. Just leave this meeting and leap into action. Find out what your pensions are doing, how you can make a serious contribution to the battle against climate change with those pensions. And if you work in the pensions industry, others today have set out what can be done. And if you haven’t acted, you know, it really is your turn to take up the mantle. That’s why we’re here in this crucial year with Glasgow and the COP coming up to try and accelerate the change that the public wants to go slightly left field at Christmas I bought my girlfriend a Thermomix and it has totally transformed our kitchen. Things have been done twice as fast and they’re twice as tasty. And pensions are like the Thermomix of finance, they can be absolutely transformative. Millions of people will get pensions that at last, they could be proud of. Pensions with intention, not neutral and sometimes negative things. And I think it really is a generational opportunity and now is the time to act on it fast. So that’s where I’m coming from. And it’s now my great honor to introduce a great woman, force of nature, the key figure in the Paris Climate negotiations, great campaigner, great human being. It’s not a broad field, but I’m pretty sure that if I did know everyone in Costa Rica, Christiana Figueres would still be my favourite Costa Rican. So, Christiana, to take it away.

 

Christiana Figueres: [00:16:09] Thank you so much, Richard. Very kind and generous of you. And thank you very much for sharing your personal journey and how you came to lead the Make My Money Matter campaign, which you started in the UK. And I’m delighted that you’re now taking it to the broader international scene. Thank you so much. And I should say that I was after our first conversation about this, that you made me aware of this, that I went and dug into my pension and my digging into my pension has actually made them change their investment portfolios. So you see how things can actually multiply in their impact. So thank you very much, Richard. And Mark thank you so much for the amazing leadership that you’re displaying toward COP26. You could have just settled back into Canada and enjoyed coming home after being the governor of the Bank of England, but the fact that you’ve taken on this mantle is hugely, hugely appreciated. So I’ve been asked today to talk a little bit about what is different now between where we were in Paris 5.5 years ago and where we are today, just a few months before Glasgow. I would argue there are at least five points that are different that have changed over the past 5.5 years. The first is, we are now much more aware of the negative impacts of climate. We are seeing more impacts. I don’t have to remind anyone about the horrible fires in Australia or how we are losing coral reefs, how we are endangering both the north and the south icecaps.

 

Christiana Figueres: [00:17:57] We are much, much more aware of the negative impacts. We have much more knowledge of the fact that we are not just looking at long term tipping points, but we’re actually dangerously approaching tipping points in many ecosystems. And this is my call out for you to see Breaking Boundaries film. Since Richard Curtis is hosting this, I can talk about a film, June 4th, Netflix, Breaking Boundaries, The most scary and enlightening movie you have ever seen about what we’re doing to the ecosystems. So we’re much more aware and we have much more alarming knowledge of the consequences of either not acting on climate change or acting too late. Way back in 2015, which seems like three generations ago, we thought that just getting to what we called well below two degrees, which is what is inscribed in the Paris agreement, would sort of be OK and that it was OK to simply aspire to 1.5 degrees as the maximum temperature rise. Wrong! We now know, thanks to advancing science, that we cannot let global temperature rise go below 1.5. So 1.5 degrees is the new 2 degrees. Second, we are much more aware of the urgency. We used to think in Paris times that 2050, what we call the long term target for net-zero was OK if we moved in that direction today. Thanks to science, we know that actually we don’t have 30 years. We have nine years because by 2030 we have to have cut our emissions by half in order to be able to open the portal to a better world.

 

Christiana Figueres: [00:19:46] Or if we don’t do that, we’ve actually completely closed that portal and we will be condemned to a world of constant destruction and human misery. So 2030 is the new 2050. Third public expectation, and both Mark and Richard have talked about this, public expectation is much more out there, much more vociferous, especially the expectation of youth that those of us that are still at the table of decisions are actually making decisions that are responsible from their point of view, not just from our short term, but from their point of view. Fourth, we have, gratefully, besides all of our all of my first three points, we are much more understanding of the benefits of decarbonizing our polluted global economy. We know that when we do that, we’re going to get much more livable cities, better and more efficient transport, better, cheaper, healthier electricity production, safer food productions. And from an investment point of view, a much safer long term asset value. Which leads me to my fifth point that Mark has already covered very well, which is the rising commercial value of investments in the clean technology. So all of those five are actually quite different. They provide us with a very different context to what we had in 2015. However, one thing has not changed, and that is the very simple but powerful fact that wherever finance goes, so go emissions or so go emission reductions, because whatever gets finance is ultimately going to determine what our emissions levels and our emissions trajectory is.

 

Christiana Figueres: [00:21:42] That is where the pension world comes in, because there is, as Mark has argued, full alignment. We and no one, no one other than those of you in the pension world understand as clearly that the decisions and the actions of today will create the reality of tomorrow. You know that because that is what we pay you for, to know that. But you should know that also with respect to climate, it is innately true of my individual money that I put into my pensions. But it is also innately true at the sectoral level of investment of the investment power of the pension sector. And the fact is, because there’s 50 trillion, which has been mentioned by both Mark and Richard, the pension sector could single-handedly shift the future of where we are from constant destruction to a future of regeneration. As long as the pension sector globally would align itself to what it knows and understands better than anyone else, which is the long time horizon. No one better than you to take the concept and the power of fiduciary duty and put and ride it with a capital F. This is the fiduciary duty to your beneficiaries. If we could get to the point of mainstreaming pension sector into clean technologies and clean investments, we could actually move the world to a much better future. That is what this conversation is about, that is the power of this potential and not one that we can shy away from.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:23:40] Thank you so much, Christiana, it’s always wonderful to hear you talk, and I must admit, I kind of feel, because I started from the charity poverty side, the biggest cultural shift in my lifetime is we used to think that there were the climate people and as it were, the poverty people and we’ve now absolutely seen that risk to the planet is risk to all the people on it. Our next speaker has the splendid title of the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion. He was appointed by the prime minister last year to drive action from businesses, investors, universities, cities and regions on climate change. So I’m delighted to introduce a great friend to our campaign, Nigel Topping, who’s here with us by video.

 

Nigel Topping: [00:24:32] Reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century is crucial to achieve the temperature goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Action and with, of course, clearly defined interim goals to deliver the 50 percent reduction by 2030 that the science demands. And Gonzalo and I launched the Race to Zero as a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, investors, cities, regions for a healthy, resilient, zero-carbon recovery to minimize future threats, create decent jobs and unlock inclusive, sustainable growth. And our approach is to drive the rates to zero by seeking commitments from everybody, from businesses, from cities, from regions, and these coupled with government commitments and the finance commitments we’re working on with Mark, already covering over 70 percent of the global economy. And we were thrilled with Mark recently to launch the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. That brings together banks, asset owners, asset managers and soon insurers already with assets and bank balance sheets covering more than 70 trillion dollars committed to zero and to the short term actions necessary to be on track. So far, we’ve created the biggest ever coalition on climate action. We have over 700 cities in 24 regions, nearly 2400 businesses, over 160 investors and over 600 universities. We’ve been really delighted to see the addition to these commitments from the Green Pensions Charter launched by Make My Money Matter and Count Us In last week with those 50 plus businesses and organizations like IKEA, Ernst and Young, Octopus, Oxfam, and WWF all raising the demand for green pensions and calling for a net-zero pensions industry. So we see a huge wave of businesses joining the race to zero. And for me, it’s clear that a green pension for each of those business is a logical step on their journey towards a zero carbon future in the race to zero. So we need to see all pension funds step up, commit to net-zero by COP 26. It’s time to make our money matter.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:27:00] Next up, we have a message from Amina Mohammed, who’s the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. She’s a remarkable woman whose strength and focus actually brought the SDGs into being. And throughout my time at the UN, she’s been an amazing ally. Passionate, well-informed, but also always searching for new and groundbreaking changes in the way that we communicate the SDGs, new levers, like this one, that can be and must be used to make them happen. This is Amina Mohammed.

 

Amina Mohammed: [00:27:30] Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to address this net-zero pension summit, and I thank the Make My Money Matter campaign for this invitation. Over a year ago, COVID-19 upended our lives. We have seen some progress in our fight against the pandemic and climate change, but we are still a long way from curbing the death rates, halting the increase in extreme poverty and preventing the growing inequality within and between countries. We face lost decades for development and a grave setback in our efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals and the goals of the Paris Agreement. We must ensure that developing countries have access to finance to invest in short and long-term actions that put them on a path to a low carbon, resilient, inclusive recovery. This requires a concerted global response on several fronts. To keep the promise of the SDGs, we cannot sit idly hoping others will take the lead. We are in a decisive decade to deliver the SDGs. We must call on everyone, everywhere to be more ambitious, more courageous and increasingly daring to flip the orthodoxies. We must ensure net-zero pledges are backed by credible targets and timelines, be it in nationally determined contributions by governments, or decarbonization plans for business and financial actors. Asset owners, and among them pension funds, hold great sway to ensure that the economy realigns with net zero through the investment chain. Pension funds with their over 50 trillion dollars in assets under management can influence the decisions of asset managers and real economy companies in their portfolios. Tapping into their unique spheres of influence, net-zero pensions can move the markets and their peers for both people and for planet.

 

Amina Mohammed: [00:29:17] We need your help to move the needle systematically. This transformation the world needs today cannot happen without your leadership and support. Your net-zero commitments must be backed by credible, short and long-term plans aligned to the 1.5 degree temperature goal of the Paris Agreement. This is essential to achieve the ultimate finance goal of the Paris Agreement by shifting the trillions towards a low carbon, resilient and inclusive economy. We are encouraged by the net-zero pledges and announcements by some of the key pension funds in the world. But it is essential that more join these efforts. In 2019, the United Nations convened the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, which the Secretary-General has held as a gold standard for credibility and transparency of their plans and targets. To follow through on net-zero pledges. Our own Joint Staff pension fund joined this alliance, and we invite others to do so. Finally, our investments must reach beyond climate targets and touch the lives of those further behind. They must positively impact sustainable development more broadly, lifting up women and girls, and curtailing growing inequalities. I very much look forward to working with you and other partners to reimagine and transform our future. Please accept my very best wishes for a productive session. Thank you.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:30:43] Thank you, I mean, and now here is one of my real long-time heroes, Mary Robinson. She was the first woman president of Ireland and then the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She’s a globally recognized voice on climate change, really highlighting the need for drastic action from world leaders. But also, she’s a very clear and crucial voice on how passion about climate isn’t just about climate. It’s also totally tied in with so many other huge issues, intergenerational injustice, biodiversity loss, gender inequality. Crucially so, it’s a real honor to introduce Mary Robinson.

 

Mary Robinson: [00:31:25] Thank you very much, Richard. And it’s understandable that at a net-zero pension summit, there would be a focus on the financial sector and indeed on the role of pension funds. And it is welcome that governments, by and large, a significant number of governments have now committed to be net zero emissions by 2050. That’s too far off. Where are they in 2030 and more importantly, in their nationally determined contributions. But the Glasgow COP, what are they doing specifically and urgently over the next decade? That’s really what matters. This is the most important decade in human history, and governments have to absolutely step up and align all of government policies with 1.5 degrees and with protecting biodiversity and preventing extinction of species and reclaiming, recovering, rewilding as we know we must do. I’m pleased that there is a shift happening. What we can see it in the voluntary commitments of the pension funds today, but it’s there in the International Energy Agency report aligning for the first time with 1.5 degrees. It’s there in the G7 meeting recently of environment ministers, which aligned for the first time with 1.5 degrees. It’s there in the cases that we’re seeing, the litigation. I mean, we all welcomed the agenda case a few years ago, the Dutch case, but it seemed isolated.

 

Mary Robinson: [00:33:02] It’s not isolated anymore. If a case is in Germany and calling the German constitutional court, saying the German government has to do more. We have a case in France, a case in Ireland against my own country. We’ve had a case just the other day, another Dutch case, against Shell. We have shareholder action. Shareholders are stepping up and committing to changing with the help of major investors, directors of companies like Exxon in order to get change. So I’m really more hopeful now than I was, for example, at the beginning of 2020, when before we got the covid, awful catastrophe on top of us, I felt we weren’t going to get the ambition. Somehow I think covid is perhaps helping by getting us all out of our comfort zone and making us think more about the fragility of humanity. I welcome the young climate activists, the Fridays for Future, but I see them aligned more now with Black Lives Matter, with the Me Too campaign. There’s a sort of coming together of all of the inequalities because covid has exacerbated all of these inequalities and shown us, and frankly, Richard, I’m going to say something that might be a little bit of heresy to you, but I’m going to say it anyway. I don’t want to build back better. I want to build forward with justice, equality and sustainability.

 

Mary Robinson: [00:34:25] And I believe that this is the sort of vision that we need that brings everybody with us. And we have to recognize that we must do something about equitable access to vaccines. If we’re going to bring people with us, if we’re going to have the urgency that we had in Paris, it’s going to be those voices who live the existential threat of climate change, not talk about it as a future problem. And we need those voices to get the urgent commitment of governments in COP26. So I’m really hoping that we’re going to move more on that vaccine issue as we move towards where we need to be, both in Kunming in China, on protection of our biodiversity, protecting 30 percent of the land, 30 percent of the oceans, the High Ambition Coalition, and the gender action plan that they also have in that conference and then moving on to the Paris summit. So let me end with a simple exhortation from the founder of the Elders in 2007, Nelson Mandela. He said very succinctly, he said, and I think this is something that really needs to be emphasized: it always seems impossible until it is done. We can do it. We must do it. And this decade is the most important in human history. Thank you.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:35:50] Thank you, Mary. It is really wonderful to hear from you and I can’t help but think when you talk about the kind of renewed energy after the pandemic. I’ve always been obsessed by the fact that the big thing that happened in the UK after the end of the chaos of World War Two was the creation of the NHS. And this could and should be one of those moments. And I would just say to everyone here that you listen, you think of all the things that are complicated in the world, but, you know, you yourselves have this absolute job you could do with regard to pensions right now. And it will make a huge difference. We now finish with a man of the hour. Alok Sharma is the full-time president for COP26. His role includes leading preparations for COP26 in Glasgow in November and chairing the Climate Action Implementation Cabinet Committee to coordinate government action towards net zero by 2050. His is clearly a crucial voice in the room today, and we’re very pleased to have this video from him.

 

Alok Sharma: [00:36:55] Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to join you to close this vital summit. I want to thank Richard Curtis, and Make Money Matter for hosting it, as well as my friends and colleagues Mark Carney and Nigel Topping for all the work that they have done to get private finance going green. The challenge the world faces today is critical and it is urgent. When the countries of the world signed the Paris Agreement 2015, they committed to limit global temperature rises to well below two degrees, aiming for one point five degrees because the science showed that this would avert the very worst effects of climate change. But since that agreement was signed, the world has not done enough. And today we find ourselves at a crunch point to keep the one point five degree target within reach. We must halve global emissions by 2030 and we must reach net zero emissions by the middle of the century. That requires action. Now, we cannot kick the can down the road any further. If we do not take this chance to keep one point five degrees alive, it will slip from our grasp and so will our best hope of building the future that we want to see. So COP26, the United Nations climate conference that will be held in Glasgow in November must be the moment that every country and every part of society embraces their responsibility to protect our precious planet. And, very importantly, that includes finance because without it, the task ahead is near impossible. That is why one of my key aims of COP 26 is to get finance flowing to climate action, both public and private.

 

Alok Sharma: [00:38:40] And with forty seven trillion dollars in pension funds globally, this sector plays a major role. We need to get our savings for the future shaping the future. The good news is that this is not a choice to be made between private profit and protecting the planet. One needn’t be sacrificed for the other because the economics have changed. Today, green investments are indeed smart investments. In the majority of the world, renewables are cheaper than new coal and gas. Putting your money in fossil fuels creates the very real risk of stranded assets. A recent report from Imperial College London found that over the past five years and indeed over the past 10 years, renewable investments generated higher returns than fossil fuels in both advanced economies and emerging markets. New global markets are also emerging to help people in nature adapt to the effects of our changing climate. From drought resilience, sea technologies to energy-efficient cooling, creating new investment opportunities for investors. So it’s not surprising that we are indeed seeing progress. One hundred and sixty financial firms have signed up to the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, committing to reach net-zero by 2050 at the latest and to robust targets based on the signs to get there. This includes banks with balance sheets of nearly 30 trillion dollars and asset owners worth six trillion dollars, including major pension schemes such as Aviva, BT Pension Scheme and the Church Commissioners of England and asset managers responsible thirty seven trillion dollars worth of assets, which represents around 40 percent of the industry. Ahead of COP26 I’m urging all financial institutions to join them and to commit to a net zero future.

 

Alok Sharma: [00:40:40] As well as taking four other key steps to protect our planet. First, commit to exit cofinance so that together we make COP26 the moment that we consign coal power to the past, where it belongs. Second, increase investments in climate action in developing the emerging markets. Thirdly, protect nature. By 2025, ensure none of your investments contribute to deforestation. By 2030, ensure your investments are contributing to the restoration of the natural world. Finally, disclose your climate risk in line with the task force of climate-related financial disclosures of TCFD. This will become mandatory across the UK economy in 2025, and the government will shortly introduce regulations on what this means for pensions to ensure trustees take account of climate change risk and each and every decision. There’s a real advantage in getting your house in order and early. Awareness of the climate crisis is growing all the time, and consumers and shareholders increasingly want their investments to align with their values. So when they look to start at whether they should be moving their pension, give them the best possible reason to stay with you. Show them that you have understood the urgency of the situation, that you have stepped up to the plate, and that, in this vital year of climate action. The year of COP26, you are playing your part and keeping one point five degrees alive. Show them in short, that by investing with you, they’re investing in the clean, green and prosperous future we all want to see. Thank you.

 

Richard Curtis: [00:42:26] I would love to feel that everyone today has learned stuff, I certainly have, but also that you feel both the opportunity and the urgency here. If we are to avoid a climate catastrophe, we need our pensions to align to net zero, particularly, to halve the emissions in this next decade. So what would be great, as everyone has said, is don’t just put this aside as an interesting subject to be filed for action at a later date. Change will only happen if each of us does something right now for pension funds. That means aligned to net zero fast, and, preferably, necessarily committing to a full Glasgow. And for the rest of us, for individuals, for business, let’s look into our pensions, look into our company and business pensions that can be made sustainable without losing money. It’s not the easiest thing to do. But I think what today’s proved is both and it’s unbelievably important and that it is doable. And definitely, the buck does not stop with our local market, it stops with you. And, you know, you are the necessary heroes here. And if you want to protect the planet, the people on it, our children, our grandchildren, then getting a pension to be proud of or creating those pensions is a huge, decisive, important new leap forward that we can all take this year. Thank you so much for being with us today and for all you do and all you will do. Thank you.

 

Paul Dickinson: [00:44:04] Thanks for listening, folks. And remember, if you want to learn more about finance in the race to zero, visit globaloptimism.com/podcast, where you’ll find our Race to Zero series. Now, we’ll be back next week with another regular episode of Outrage and Optimism, see you then.