This weekend, government delegates from around the world will convene in Glasgow for the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties. They will be joined by climate scientists, activists, business leaders, the media and a range of other stakeholders at the event billed as “the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control”.
An August report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that in the coming decades, climate change will increase across the globe, with a 1.5-degree rise leading to more heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. Climate change will also result in drought, flooding and more regular extreme sea level events, according to the report.
Mitigating the climate crisis will, of course, require more than government pledges at a global conference; it also needs action from a broad range of groups and a significant amount of public and private financing.
Climate risk is a growing focus area across private markets, and it has been on impact investors’ radars for some time, as we explore in our Impact Investing Special Report, published next week. More than two-thirds of impact investors already address climate change through their investments, according to the Global Impact Investing Network’s 2020 Annual Impact Investor Survey, including through investments that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, prevent future emissions or that support climate change adaptation. More than 80 percent of these respondents do so to “address an urgent, significant global challenge”.
Yet as the impact investing market grows in size and sophistication, it could play an even greater role in the fight against climate change, supporting the accelerated need for progress by backing innovative technologies and helping them scale.
Impact’s purpose-driven approach could have a positive knock-on effect that could bring other entities on board in the fight against global warming. As Rekha Unnithan, co-head of impact investing at Nuveen, says: “We have seen first-hand how impact investing – with its tangible outputs and proven change – attracts additional investment into sustainable causes from investors worldwide. In many cases, impact investing is the main entry point to investing in sustainability. This alone is critical to directing needed capital to address climate change.”
According to GIIN chief executive and co-founder Amit Bouri, we need a new approach to climate action, which includes increasing investment in three areas: renewable energy, climate technologies and natural capital. “The climate crisis requires every approach we can muster,” he says. “By pushing these three investment frontiers, and adopting a patient and risk-tolerant approach to returns, investors will be contributing towards an economy that exists in harmony with our natural systems.”
On the cusp of COP26, it is worth echoing UN Secretary General António Guterres’s call to action in response to the IPCC report. “The alarm bells are deafening,” said Guterres. “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as [the IPCC] report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.”