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Royal Society/Lord Mayor series on Nature and Finance, Mansion House

This was another in the series of Lord Mayor’s Coffee Colloquies held at Mansion House, promoting connections that help address the leading issues of the day.  This was the first led by the Royal Society and discussed how to align better the needs of the economy with the capabilities of the planet.  It concentrated on how and where to direct capital at the rate required for nature protection and restoration.

The meeting was introduced by Alderwoman Martha Grekos and chaired by Sir John Kingman KCB FRS, Chair of Legal & General Group plc and Barclays Bank UK plc. The other speakers were: Helen Avery, Director of Nature Programmes and GFI Hive within the Green Finance Institute; Tim Lenton, Professor of Earth System Science at University of Exeter; and Dr Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors.

Tim gave a very simple and effective demonstration of the tipping point with a Mansion House chair showing how our impact on the environment is changing the balance of nature and we approach the tipping point from which we cannot return. Examples he gave included the threat to ocean currents in the Atlantic and the destruction of coral reefs.

The speakers were critical of the financial models used to determine investment.  We are “discounting the future” and will have a “terminal value of nil”.  We do not care about the security or environmental impact of our investment.  Agriculture accounts for 71% of our land but only 1% of our GDP.  The economic and political case to invest in improving farming is not made.

When I asked why we are not getting the required investment in clean water, sewage treatment or flood defences, the reply was simple – we will not pay higher bills.  We need to clarify the public benefit of these essential projects.  We are not enforcing regulations and actions aligned with the delivery of improvements.  Funding of the Environment Agency is half that required.

While the speakers gave an air of optimism, behind it was a stark realism.  It was a very informative and interesting morning.  Through this Colloquy the message was getting through to investors about the need to invest in a sustainable future and not just following the money.



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