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New net-zero alliance of banks, funds prioritizes green investment, but key emitters are absent – CBC.ca

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Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of a CBC News initiative entitled Our Changing Planet to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it.


As a former central banker on two continents, Canada’s Mark Carney has honed the dark art of haranguing and arm-twisting members of the global investment community better than almost anyone.

But his latest task, as the United Nations’ special envoy on climate action and finance, involved some pretty daunting numbers.

Carney, who headed up the Bank of Canada and then the Bank of England between 2008 and 2020, was tasked to find more than $100 trillion US in capital from the global financial community to help drive the transformation of the world’s economy from fossil fuels to a new age powered by clean energy.

“It’s a mammoth transition,” Carney told CBC News at COP26, the UN’s climate change conference, in Glasgow, Scotland. 

“It’s absolutely enormous. It’s bigger than global GDP.”

  • Have questions about COP26 or climate science, policy or politics? Email us at ask@cbc.ca, or let us know in the comments. Your input helps inform our coverage.

On Wednesday, designated finance day at the Glasgow conference, Carney announced success, of sorts.

“We have banks, asset managers, pension funds, insurance companies from around the world — more than 45 countries — and their total resources, totalling $130 trillion US,” said Carney, $30 trillion more than the target.

“So one of the key messages of this COP is: the money is there.” 

The Conference of Parties (COP), as it’s known, meets every year and is the global decision-making body set up in the 1990s to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements.

Agreement leaves out big emitters

Carney says more than 450 firms — including Canada’s big five chartered banks — have committed to supporting the goals of what’s become known as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ).

Net zero means countries are no longer adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Some greenhouse gases might still be emitted, but they would be balanced off or “cancelled out” by the removal of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases. The concept is similar to carbon neutrality but includes more than just carbon dioxide emissions.

Firms that sign onto the GFANZ agreement are promising to abide by 24 financial initiatives that will signal to their customers, shareholders and investors that they are making green investments a priority.

The initiatives include climate-related reporting of their investments and transparency about climate-related financial risks.

A flare stack lights the sky in Edmonton in December 2018. The Conference of Parties (COP) meets yearly to implement the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change and subsequent climate agreements. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

While the agreement doesn’t compel the financial institutions to invest any specific amount of money or put it into any specific industry, Carney says it creates a new framework for them to make green investments.

“It’s about what their clients are doing, what are the emissions of their clients, the people they lend to, the people they invest in,” he said. 

However, there are notable gaps.

Big banks from some of the countries with the largest emissions — China, India and Russia — are not part of the agreement.

Nor does it compel signatories to cease funding projects such as coal mines or other ventures that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 

But Carney says if such investments happen they will draw both shareholder and public scrutiny. 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicates 1.5 degrees with his hands at the COP26 summit, on Tuesday. Keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels by mid-century is seen as a crucial test for the global community. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Pool/The Associated Press)

“What’s going to happen for RBC, JP Morgan … and investors around the world is they’re going to publish every year — ‘These are the emissions of my clients, and this is my plan to get them down.’ And then people are going to be able to see whether or not they’re going to come down.”

$100B fund still $20B short

COP26, hosted by the U.K. government, is expected to have difficulty reaching several of its stated objectives, including getting richer nations to fill up the coffers of a separate $100 billion fund that developing nations can tap into to help transition their economies.

At last count Tuesday, the fund was still roughly $20 billion short.

So Carney’s announcement that the financial sector will meet its target — while national governments so far have not — will be welcome news for the government of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In Glasgow, anticipating Carney’s announcement today, climate campaigners expressed caution about the will of the banking sector to be a force for good in climate mitigation and adaptation.

“We all need the financial system to shift — but if we start celebrating, that is going to give us the impression that we’re already there and we’re not,” said Eddie Perez of Climate Action Network Canada.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, seen here in Gatineau, Que., in October 2019, warns financial institutions could use the Carney initiative to ‘green wash’ their fossil fuel investments. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

For example, he says Royal Bank claims it is a climate champion but continues to invest heavily in Canada’s oil sector.

“I think everything that gets us closer to 1.5 degrees is something that we should look up to, but we need to be much more. We have to scrutinize the strategy to see what comes out of it,” Perez said.

The goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels by mid-century is seen as a crucial test for the global community. 

NDP cautions against empty promises

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who’s also at COP26 this week, says there’s a risk that banks and other financial institutions will use the Carney initiative to essentially “green wash” their fossil fuel investments to make them appear more politically acceptable.

“It is actually a net impact that benefits the fight against a climate crisis? Or is this just a symbolic gesture that doesn’t actually make any concrete difference in the fight?” Singh asked.

Former Liberal environment minister Catherine McKenna praised Carney’s work, but she too stressed the need for the financial sector to increase transparency. 

“People need to know, where are they investing? Are they continuing to invest in coal?” McKenna told CBC News.

WATCH | PM Justin Trudeau pitches global carbon tax at COP26:

Trudeau pitches global carbon prices at COP26

15 hours ago

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his platform at COP26 to pitch a global carbon pricing program. Though several European countries are on board, it’s a tough sell without the support of big emitters like the U.S. or China. 2:00

As evidence that the agreement is already making a difference, a statement released Wednesday morning claims that 90 institutions that first signed on to GFANZ have already committed to reducing their portfolio emissions by 25-30 per cent within four years.

It also says 38 central banks in countries comprising 67 per cent of the world’s emissions have started to transform their risk-management system to better account for climate-related risk.

Carney says the agreement is the beginning of what he expects will be a long process to win over public trust that the financial sector can help bring about positive climate change.

“The only way you convince people, and the only way people should be convinced, is through a track record of emissions reduction. So it starts from here.”


Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.


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India's Economy Grows by 8.4% Amid Signs of Recovery – U.S. News & World Report

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India’s Economy Grows by 8.4% Amid Signs of Recovery  U.S. News & World Report



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Canadian economy seen strengthening, but analysts wary of Omicron impact

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The Canadian economy roared back in the third quarter, with growth most likely accelerating in October on a manufacturing rebound, though economists were cautious on the looming impact of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Canada‘s economy grew 5.4% in the third quarter on an annualized basis, beating analyst expectations for a gain of 3.0%, Statistics Canada data showed. A preliminary estimate for October showed a gain of 0.8%, while September’s GDP was in line with expectations for a 0.1% rise.

Statscan revised down annualized second-quarter GDP to a contraction of 3.2% from a previous dip of 1.1%. But with the October gain, economic activity is now just 0.5% below pre-pandemic levels.

“The October increase was maybe more encouraging for the speed of recovery even than the third quarter numbers,” said Nathan Janzen, senior economist at Royal Bank of Canada.

“There is a lot of uncertainty right now about how long this can be sustained just given … the Omicron variant.”

The third-quarter rebound was driven by one of the largest household spending sprees on record, as COVID-19 restrictions were eased and consumers bought everything from clothing to personal grooming services. Exports were also up, led by crude oil.

“We had a pretty strong showing in consumer spending. So that was nice to see after the weakness we had in the second quarter,” said Jimmy Jean, chief economist at Desjardins Group.

“But now the question is what’s going to happen in fourth quarter,” he added, pointing to both the emergence of the Omicron variant and flooding in the western province of British Columbia that cut off a key port from the rest of Canada. “It seems the more we go into the quarter the risk has tilted to the downside.”

Canada has reported five cases of the Omicron variant. The health minister in the province of Quebec warned residents to rethink holiday travel.

The Bank of Canada last month signaled it could start hiking rates as soon as April 2022, with inflation set to stay above target through much of next year due to supply chain bottlenecks and high energy prices.

The Canadian dollar was trading 0.2% lower at 1.2768 to the greenback, or 78.32 U.S. cents. Investors are pricing in a first rate hike in either March or April. [BOCWATCH]

(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer, and Fergal Smith in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Paul Simao)

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Canadian dollar dips as virus variant risk offsets GDP gain

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The Canadian dollar weakened against its U.S. counterpart on Tuesday as fears that the Omicron coronavirus variant could impede global economic recovery offset data showing stronger than expected growth in the domestic economy.

World share markets dropped after the CEO of drugmaker Moderna warned that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the new variant.

Canada is a major producer of commodities, including oil, so the loonie tends to be sensitive to prospects for global growth.

U.S. crude oil futures fell nearly 4% to $67.23, while the Canadian dollar was trading 0.2% lower at 1.2767 to the greenback, or 78.33 U.S. cents.

The currency touched its weakest intraday level since Sept. 22 at 1.2812.

Canada‘s economy grew 5.4% in the third quarter on an annualized basis, beating analyst expectations for a gain of 3.0%, Statistics Canada data showed.

A preliminary estimate for October showed a gain of 0.8%, while September’s GDP was in line with expectations for a 0.1% rise.

Canadian government bond yields were lower across a flatter curve, tracking the move in U.S. Treasuries.

The 10-year rate hit its lowest intraday level since Oct. 14 at 1.534% before recovering slightly to 1.546%, down 6.8 basis points on the day.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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