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UBS chairman: Climate change occurring at 'astonishing' speed

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Axel Weber, UBS group chairman. Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images

The chairman of UBS (UBS) has spoken out about the dangers of climate change and called for investors to fund the fight against potential environmental disaster.

“There is mounting evidence — real, true scientific evidence — that shows that our climate is changing,” Axel Weber said on Monday. “It is not acknowledged by every policy maker around the globe, but I think there is an increasing number of policymakers who believe it.”

Weber’s brother is a maritime geologist whose work touches upon the changes in the Earth’s climate. Weber said he had been exposed to the data on climate change for 30 years.

“If you look at the current research and you take some interest in that, you know this: climate change is for real,” Weber said. “The speed at which the environment is changing is astonishing. So needs to be the speed at which we respond to that.”

The UBS chairman’s comments came at UBS's first ever ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) and Sustainability Symposium in London on Monday. Weber opened the conference via a live video link from Switzerland.

Weber called on investors and finance professionals to overhaul financial markets and investment processes to make tackling climate change a key priority.

READ MORE: UK government tells banks to go green in anti-carbon push

“Financial markets are enormously effective in moving capital where it is needed most,” he said. “But how can financial markets be moved to mobilising capital and aligning capital allocations more strongly with sustainability?

“During the financial crisis and before, and in its aftermath, finance has been part of the problem. We need to do what we can do best — that is financial engineering, financial plumbing — to become a force for good.”

Coal-fired power plants produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. Photo: Getty

Weber called for a standardisation of acronyms to make sustainable investing more understandable, the development of benchmarks around sustainability, and the development of derivative markets in sustainable investments.

Weber’s opening address was followed by a talk from Dr Maria Zuber, vice-president for research at MIT and a professor of geophysics.

“Changes are happening faster than any of the models are predicting,” Dr Zuber said.

“We need technology breakthroughs. There will be technology breakthroughs it’s just a question of when it’s going to happen.

“You have it within your wherewithal to invest in some of these things,” Dr Zuber told the audience of UBS clients.

Sustainable investment aimed at decreasing the impact of climate change has become a major subject within global finance in recent years. A “Green Finance Strategy” was launched by the UK government earlier this year and the Bank of England will begin climate stress tests in 2021. The tests will examine how banks would cope with climate risks such as the banning of carbon-based fuels or increased flooding in certain areas.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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