Simon Clarke is MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland
The City of London has long been the envy of our European partners. For years, they have sought to undermine its global strength, weaken its grip on emerging markets and snatch trade from our shores. As our departure from the EU draws near, Brussels has its eyes set on hobbling London – and promoting Paris and Frankfurt as Europe’s new finance powerhouses.
You’d be bold to bet against the City. It’s an attractive place to do business: a trade surplus of $68 billion in 2016 speaks for itself. That’s more than the combined surpluses of the US and Switzerland. It’s packed with world class expertise, capital and products that drive the global economy and attract investors from China, India and Latin America. Its health is also critical to the Government, contributing 11 per cent of tax receipts in 2016-2017. That’s why we should use Brexit as an opportunity to protect one of our greatest treasures – and ensure it remains a world leader long into the future.
There’s a race on. Emerging economies are growing fast, and will account for a significant proportion of global GDP and trade flows in the future. In China alone, it has been estimated the transition to an ‘ecological civilisation’ will require annual green investments equal to $474 – 633 billion in the period 2015-2020, with at least 85 per cent of which needs to come from the private sector. This is a sector where the UK and London have a clear competitive advantage. Brazil and China are among countries to have set up green finance teams in the city to tap into our skills.
In 2017, 27 green bonds were listed in London, raising $10.09 billion, nearly double that of 2016. A report just published by the Green Finance Taskforce (GFT), set up by the Government last year, reveals that 13 renewable infrastructure funds valued over $6 billion are listed on London Stock Exchange. Yet as Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated while manager of Manchester United – leaders must continually innovate and evolve… or lose their Midas touch.
The UK is a green leader, but we’re in danger of being caught by the likes of Paris and Frankfurt, who recognise that the most capital-intensive transition in human history will benefit the owners and organisers of capital. Earlier this year, the EU published a new green finance plan to support the bloc’s climate and sustainable development agenda. Now Brussels may argue it’s a leader – but as with the UK’s emissions, which are falling faster than any other G7 country, we can do so much better.
The Government has an opportunity to ‘green’ finance globally in a way that no other government can. London is the most international financial centre on the planet: what happens in the City resonates across the globe and sets standards for others to follow. And that’s why I’m calling on the government to embrace the findings of the GFT, which is made up of some of the world’s brightest financial talent.
Its proposals are fairly simple. Back the fastest growing sector of the economy, demand transparency and send clear policy signals, which the Government has already started to do with its Clean Growth Strategy. This means promoting green borrowing, launching an ambitious green infrastructure project pipeline and playing to our strengths by requiring companies to disclose their climate risks.
All this will allow investors in the UK to differentiate between companies and assets that are aligned with the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy. It will allow companies that implement sustainability practices gain access to a lower cost of capital, higher productivity and better stock market performance. And it will allow London to retain its leadership at the top of the global financial pile – keeping it out of reach from our neighbours across the channel.
If you’re wondering why this matters to you, consider this. According to a 2017 report from the UK Committee on Climate Change, low carbon services generated a turnover of £4 billion in 2015, and grew 8.5 per cent from 2013-2015. Making the UK and City of London the global hub for green finance is p art of protecting those future jobs, and the wider benefits they will deliver. This is how the UK can drive the sustainability transition, in the same way we are already leading the world with our research and development sector.But being best in class globally on green finance needs to start at home. The time is right for the Government to seize the moment and back London.