BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, has indicated that those that don’t tackle climate change will lose money in 5 years. Some financial institutions have made multi-trillion commitments from now to 2030 to invest in the green economy while still focusing the majority of investments in fossil fuels. Canadian banks are among the global top fossil fuel investors.
Not all Big Oil firms are alike. Some are engaged in a rapid green migration, many are sitting on the fence and others are still in climate denial. Meanwhile, the value of fossil fuel assets are declining but the industry is camouflaging this by selling assets and debt financing to keep shareholders happy.
There are those like Stephen Harper who repeatedly say we must choose between economic development and sustainable development.
And there are those who, concerned about the environment and the latest reports from the International Panel on Climate Change, suggest that economic development and sustainable development should be reconciled. Countries such as Germany are often cited as cases in point. Most environmental organizations fall into this latter reconciliation category.
When most people talk of China and its environmental and energy challenges, they tend to paint a very bleak picture. While this view is historically justified, things are changing fast in today’s China.
Criticism of China’s environmental record has been traditionally well-justified. After all, China: 1) displaced the US as the world’s largest energy consumer as of 2009 – doubling its energy consumption between 2000 and 2009; 2) produces the world’s highest pollution levels, with 16 of the top 20 most-polluted cities in the world being in China; and 3) now has total annual vehicle sales higher than that of the US.
Both the Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have concluded that public policies, rather than the availability of resources, are among the key determinants for a shift from fossil fuels to clean technology development and deployment. Public banks are critical agents for change along these lines.
Public financial institutions and the green economy around the world
Starting with some of the largest public banks, in July 2013, both the World Bank and the European Investment Bank announced that they will limit to the bare minimum investments in fossil fuel projects, while shifting the lion’s share of their respective energy investments to renewables.