Business holds the key to tackling the climate crisis

Editorial: There is an increasing consciousness that business and finance has to play a part or else be forced to do so

Tuesday 02 November 2021 22:45
<p>Boris Johnson at the climate summit on Tuesday </p>

Boris Johnson at the climate summit on Tuesday

The prime minister, in typical soaring style, told the Cop26 summit that the “promethean power of human invention” will help solve the climate emergency. “We have a bomb disposal team on site and they are starting to snip some of the wires, some of the right wires I hope,” the prime minister said.

Sounding a little like a con man who has spied a vulnerable “mark”, he picked Bill Gates’s pocket of $400m (£294m) to help fund low carbon air transportation, as if to pre-empt the critics who have already got wind that he will be flying back to London from the summit. Impressive as the Gates pledge is, it’s no excuse for setting such a poor example to others. Then again, this is the man who nodded off at the opening ceremony of his own global summit. Mr Johnson’s breathtaking arrogance also has a certain promethean quality to it.

As the presence of Mr Gates and Jeff Bezos at the Cop26 indicates, hard cash will be needed to move the world from its carbon-based past to a renewable, sustainable future. Such progress as has been made in the three decades or so since the first Earth Summit has been achieved in the public sphere – governments and NGOs spending the money, taking the initiative, setting targets, changing rules, banning things, and passing legislation. Private business and finance have been absent from the scene. Beyond a few increasingly derided attempts at “greenwashing” and a generally complacent attitude to the climate emergency, the banks and businesses have been on the sidelines, watching and waiting to be told what to do.

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