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GFANZ members are making clear that they have a limited role in achieving UK’s Net Zero goals. Responsible Investor reports on written comments that were submitted to the UK Parliament:

“Financial institutions should not be held solely accountable for delivering the UK’s climate targets, GFANZ members have argued in submissions to a parliamentary investigation. The institutions were responding to an inquiry by the UK parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) into the steps that UK financial institutions are taking to support national-level climate and environment targets…

In its submission, BlackRock said: ‘It is the role of governments, not industry bodies or investors, to set the targets that private sector actors should pursue. As a fiduciary, our engagement with companies focuses not on enforcing a particular temperature goal, but rather on how companies can generate long-term financial performance in the operating context of evolving climate policy and regulation.’

…Aviva said: ‘Investors do not have the ability to correct market failures – this is the role of government.’

Richard Folland, Carbon Tracker’s policy engagement head, told Responsible Investor that the disconnect between the government’s move to license new fossil fuel projects was the ‘most egregious example” of a disconnect between its policies and public statements.'”

These investors are right. Certainly, they can control their own Net Zero policies, targets and goals. They can engage with and attempt to influence portfolio companies, but climate risk management decisions are up to those individual companies. Divesting high-emitters may clean up investor holdings, but it does nothing to address the actual issue (and there is always someone else willing to buy). It takes a village – operating companies need to execute on Net Zero programs, governments must establish clear legal guardrails and technical standards, and economies must transition to new realities. No single entity can do it by themselves – and that is the same anywhere in the world.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile