We’re facing a silent, airborne, potentially lethal threat. Seclusion in our homes offers inadequate safeguards, as depictions of the culprit – a grey sphere with red appendages – become etched even deeper into our collective visual memory. I’m talking, of course, about CO2, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change.
Just as it’s not enough to turn off the taps without also draining an overfilling tub, to limit climate change we need to reduce both the flow and the stock of emissions in the atmosphere. Both are daunting tasks, and the interplay of these two forces explains why 2020 – a year of record reductions in energy emissions – is also likely to be the warmest year on record.
In short, the fact that the modern economy was built on a fossil-fuel burial ground is likely to haunt us for quite some time.
Even so, there is a reason why we first reach for the taps, not the bath plug: not making a problem worse comes before trying to solve it. That is why there is a growing policy consensus around the need to reduce new emissions to ‘net zero’ globally – in recent weeks, South Korea and Japan have both pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, following China’s 2060 target announced earlier this year. This marks an important shift, with other coal-reliant Asian nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh cancelling or planning to significantly curtail new coal power projects.
Climate trick or treat
To help accelerate this global momentum, LGIM’s newly announced Climate Impact Pledge engagement programme has significantly increased its ambition and coverage, continuing – in the Halloween spirit – to use both ‘tricks’ and ‘treats’ to help spur companies in critical sectors to step up on climate issues.
We’ve journeyed far and wide into the realms of climate analytics, sought to harvest fresh data points as midnight tolled at the end of the quarter, all mixed up into the cauldron of our company ratings. If the potion turns red – beware! We may not cast spells, but as shareholders we will cast our votes against companies or directors which we believe are not taking sufficient action on climate change, and banishment from the lands of some of our funds may yet await the worst offenders. If the potion turns green – rejoice! There are treats to be offered such as public recognition in our yearly ‘naming and faming’ of corporate leaders on sustainability.
We know progress is possible, and will continue to work with companies, other investors and policymakers towards a world where ghosts remain the biggest threat in the air next Halloween night.