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City of London mayor: 'Climate change bigger threat than COVID'

·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3-min read
Lord Mayor of City of London, William Russell. Photo: Tolga Akmen/Pool via Reuters
Lord Mayor of City of London, William Russell. Photo: Tolga Akmen/Pool via Reuters

The Lord Mayor of the City of London has said climate change is a bigger threat to the world than COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has affected our lives more than anything else in modern memory, with the recent levels of UK fatalities at almost three times greater than those sustained during the Blitz,” William Russell said in a speech on Monday evening.

“It is with that in mind that I tell you that climate change is a much greater and long-term threat to life – to our whole world – than COVID-19. Every person, every business and every country, has a role to play in overcoming that threat.”

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The comments were included in the Annual Lord Mayor Gresham Lecture delivered on Monday. Russell’s lecture was titled “Building Back Better – The City’s Role in a Green-Led Economic Recovery”.

Russell, the 692nd Lord Mayor of the City of London, said finance had a responsibility to put climate concerns at the heart of their businesses.

“When we think of industries that will make the biggest sustainable difference, we normally think of the automotive or energy sectors,” he said. “Very rarely do we think of the financial and professional services, like banking and accounting. But it is this sector that will be the lynchpin for all other sectors – indeed, the whole world – to turn green.

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“Can we continue to value and fund practices and companies that destroy the planet, pollute waters and endanger our vital ecosystem? We cannot. Climate change must be at the heart of every financial decision we make.”

Climate has rapidly risen up the agenda of financial services in recent years. The sector has been increasingly targeted by activists who want financial firms to use their heft to drive change. At the same time, investors are increasingly looking for so-called “ESG” — environmental, social, and governance — investments that marry principles with returns.

Politicians and regulators are also pushing the City to adopt climate-based principles. Then UK City minister John Glen published a “Green Finance Plan” in 2019 and the Bank of England has committed to introducing climate stress testing of the bank’s it supervises as part of efforts to drive change.

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“We have yet to reach a future in which every financial decision takes climate change and other sustainable factors into account,” Russel said. “A future where everyone is focusing on building back better or a future in which green finance is simply called finance. Our window to act is finite and closing quickly.”

The Lord Mayor added that green investment was “the business opportunity of the century, creating thousands of jobs and profits.”

“And, in short, money talks, and what it’s saying is ‘go green or go home’,” he said.

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