Date: 15th May 2019
Author: Mark Northway, ShareSoc

The climate change lobby has been active for decades, and the supporting data has slowly become more significant and more real. But the recent rally seems to have marked a turning point in public acceptance of the need for change, and it suddenly seems that government and industry will need to up its game substantially.

Focus has fallen squarely on fossil fuels, air transport and shipping. Car sales are also stuttering, although the automobile industry is not squarely in the firing line at this stage, perhaps because of advances in hybrid and clean energy use, or perhaps because giving up the keys to personal autonomy is just a step too far even for the campaigners at this point.

Pressure to change our ways is also becoming more pervasive, in that it targets not only the consumer, but also the supplier, the financier and the regulator. I attended the annual fracas that is the RBS AGM in Gogarburn this month, and much of the focus of the meeting, of the placards outside and of the Press was in the financing of fossil fuels.

Tick-box compliance through carbon credit schemes which allow developed consumer nations to outsource their carbon production are also under scrutiny. It is clear that for the new lobby zero emissions must mean zero emissions, not just zero at the point of consumption.

It’s also clear that governments pointing at each other and blaming the Donald for reneging on the Paris Accord doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Public perception doesn’t care that unilateral action is globally uncompetitive. The responsibility of governments to address the issue is now clearly both joint AND several.

It is always difficult to identify the catalysts for change, even after the event. But I suspect it may be time for investors to review their portfolios with a view to identifying the future winners and losers in a changing environment.

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