‘Some countries are one event away from crisis’

CLIMATE change is having an impact on global weather events quicker than expected – and those countries most in danger are understandably committed to lead the way to find solutions and tackle the problem.

Guernsey Finance - Sustainable Finance Week - Day 1.Emma Howard Boyd, retiring chairwoman of the UK Environment Agency, speaking at Sustainable Finance Week, September 2022. (31296608)
Guernsey Finance - Sustainable Finance Week - Day 1.Emma Howard Boyd, retiring chairwoman of the UK Environment Agency, speaking at Sustainable Finance Week, September 2022. (31296608)

Emma Howard Boyd, retiring chairwoman of the UK Environment Agency, said those working on the climate agenda were seeing events playing out in the real world much sooner than anticipated.

‘I cannot stress enough how we need to apply our best brains and best investment strategies as quickly as possible,’ she said. ‘We have waited too long for climate finance to come together.

‘We need to put environment and nature into the heart of decision-making.

‘Some countries are one event away, a cyclone, typhoon, flood, from total devastation, and they have the environment, climate change, nature, in the heart of the treasury. That’s when we get there. When everybody, whether it’s a finance director, or finance minister, is thinking about these things in the way that is most relevant to their investment decisions, the way they are managing their organisation, their department, their country, is when it’s sitting in finance, and it’s absolutely joining up lives, livelihoods and nature. And that again is where we have to move at pace.’

Ms Howard Boyd said the world was at a point where it was possible to pivot to ‘turn massive risk into an opportunity, but there is very little time left’.

From her experience at the Environment Agency, she said that adapting to climate change and building resilience were crucial.

‘Factoring into our infrastructure investments what it means to become resilient is important, and nature and biodiversity has a massive role to play in the net zero agenda. Nature-based solutions can make a difference.

‘Alongside grey infrastructure, we need green and blue infrastructure.

‘And we need to take the complexity out of biodiversity and break it down into different ways that it can impact us as humans, and impact our businesses, supply chains and ultimately our investments.’

Ms Howard Boyd said she was supportive of the UK government’s green finance strategy and how much of it could be applied to the pursuit of net zero and biodiversity.

‘We need to green the financial system, but we also need to finance green. How do we get capital flowing into projects and into the things that will solve the climate crisis and the natural environment crisis and move on as we head into net zero into a nature-positive world?

‘In my time at the Environment Agency I was really keen as the environmental regulator, and with responsibility to build projects for flood resilience, to build those pilot projects which ultimately can be fundable, because that is where you start seeing the advantage of government money and private sector going in.

‘The key thing for all of us is collaboration.

‘You need the public sector to work alongside the private sector and the third sector, but you also need the environmental regulator to work alongside economic regulators and financial regulators.

‘We have often found ourselves swimming in different lanes and we need to make sure as regulators we’re talking together to deliver real change on the ground.

‘Projects are building year after year, growing in size and scale, and hopefully will ultimately be able to deliver results and rewards to the private sector.’

But she added that while making a return was key to investors, it was also important to consider on whose behalf investment decisions were being made.

‘Decisions must be made for all, not for the few.’

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