‘Little Guernsey’ can become a major force in combatting climate crisis

‘LITTLE GUERNSEY’ syndrome can sometimes contaminate our thinking about global issues.

Demonstrators hold a banner on the west front of the Capitol during the Climate Strike protest in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, 25843627)
Demonstrators hold a banner on the west front of the Capitol during the Climate Strike protest in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, 25843627)

It is understandable, when faced with some of the catastrophes inflicting this planet, or conversely some of the monumental advancements driving society forward, that an individual will sit in their living room thinking ‘does what I do really make a difference?’

Fortunately, there are enough people who realise that the actions of one person can reverberate widely.

On Friday, the climate crisis was hoisted back up the agenda through student-led marches around the globe, a movement that has grown massively since Greta Thunberg began her actions.

It may be an uncomfortable and unwanted conversation for many who would rather carry on undisturbed by thoughts of any grim future ahead, but it is one that needs to be had and acted on.

Few in this debate are absolutist, most just believe in making simple shifts – eating less beef but not having to be vegan, jumping on a bike to work a few times a week when it fits their schedule – although those arguing against action too easily fall into the trap of hunting out any hint of hypocrisy in lifestyles rather than engaging in the science.

Back to Little Guernsey.

When the local branch of Extinction Rebellion held its rally in Candie Gardens this summer, speakers touched on an exciting part Guernsey could play through its involvement in the global financial markets.

The net asset value of total funds under management and administration here was £295.9bn in the second quarter of 2019.

Guernsey has a whole ecosystem built around finance and it is the financial flows which prop up the fossil fuel industry – this is the big lever that the island can help to pull to make a difference, should it want to, and potentially benefit from the shift in thinking being witnessed as more and more people wake up to the need for urgent action.

Politics works slowly, cultural lifestyle changes happen with each generation – but those who control the money and where it goes have real power to make a swift difference.

The Guernsey Green Fund is a toe in the water to provide a platform for those who want to see their money begin to make a difference.

‘The Guernsey Green Fund enhances investor access to the green investment space by providing a trusted and transparent product that contributes to the internationally agreed objectives of mitigating environmental damage and climate change,’ it says on the GFSC website.

The GFSC has also been looking at green insurance – broadly any insurance product that reduces, or mitigates, against climate change – and how it might be supported in Guernsey.

Insurance companies are major investors. If that money can be diverted to wind farms rather than coal or oil-fired power stations, if regulatory rules can help open that door further, it is another major step in reducing emissions.

The insurance industry also has a big part of play in what projects can get built – for example, in simplistic terms, if no one will insure something, who will invest in it?

This is broad-brush thinking, but the island’s finance industry needs to adapt to survive and thrive – that means innovation and being at the head of the curve.

The States can help lead the way with the way it invests too.

It has more than £2bn in investment funds in the control of Policy & Resources and Employment & Social Security.

Where this money is invested in any detail is not public knowledge – and the States has diversified its strategies to sometimes include assessing the potential investment for its environmental impacts, social responsibility and quality of governance, in addition to the usual financial analysis.

It does not appear to be a major factor at play at the moment though – again, a toe in the water. A bold government would be much more aggressive, ensuring that it has disinvested from industries that are driving climate change.

They won’t because they want to maximise returns and the public visibility on this issue is not high.

Public pressure would need to build for any serious move in this direction, but it has happened elsewhere – institutions around the world are cutting their ties with destructive industries.

The other, although smaller, lever that the States has to pull is in overseas aid.

Tough decisions are made about where the approximately £3m. annual budget is spent, but investing in projects which not only help the immediate communities but also combat climate change, shifting the balance, could be another approach through which Little Guernsey can think bigger.

Change does not come easily, but the decarbonisation of the world economy is happening and that pace will only grow.

Guernsey can not only benefit through the innovation it can offer in the finance industry, it can also become a major force for driving that change.

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