Monday 31 May 2021 9:00 am

City has lost a great green advocate but the fight will continue

William Russell is Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Last week the City of London, and dare I say the world, lost a key advocate of the role the financial sector plays in the fight against climate change.

Sir Roger Gifford, Lord Mayor of the City of London in 2012-13 and Chair of the Green Finance Institute, was instrumental in driving forward the green finance agenda, showing true leadership, passion and ambition in showing how the sector can be a key part of the solution.

Read more: Former Lord Mayor of London Sir Roger Gifford passes away at 65

The sad news of Sir Roger’s passing comes as the UK steps up preparations to host the UN Climate Change Conference, better known as COP26, in Glasgow in November. In the lead up to this event we have an opportunity to place finance at the heart of the transition to a net-zero emission future, but only if we work together as a global community.

With this in mind, the City of London Corporation and Green Finance Institute have announced plans to co-host a hybrid Green Horizon Summit at COP26, which will be held in Glasgow, venues in the City of London, and online.

GHS@COP26 will aim to build on the success of last year’s virtual Summit, and will provide a platform for discussion about how to mobilise public and private finance for the transition to a net zero economy. It will look to tackle the key barriers to accelerating the mobilisation of capital, addressing how can we finance both transition and growth, how can we build a global green playbook, how can we price carbon and nature, and how can we meet – and beat – the $100 billion climate finance commitment outlined in the Paris Agreement. 

With the upcoming G7 and COP26 summits, the UK has a unique opportunity to demonstrate real leadership in these areas, showing the international community that by not pursuing net-zero you are choosing to become part of the problem.

But we also need to spell out clearly the benefits of going green, and of sustainable finance. What was once a risk is now the business opportunity of the century, with the potential to create thousands of jobs and substantial returns, and the businesses that put environmental resilience at their core will be highly valued and desirable. In short, money talks, and what it’s saying is “go green or go home”.

I am proud the UK is a global leader when it comes to innovation and mobilising the capital needed to deliver a net-zero transition. But I also know we ourselves have some way to go, particularly in terms of infrastructure, and encouraging banks and asset managers based in the UK to reallocate capital to more sustainable projects around the world.

The journey to net zero will not be an easy one for any of us. But as we prepare to welcome the world to Glasgow in November, I for one have been impressed by the ambition of world leaders to tackle climate change, and hope words are met with concrete actions going forward.

Sir Roger’s passing leaves big shoes to fill, but thanks to his inspirational leadership, we are closer than ever before in ensuring the financial sector plays a pivotal role in the fight against climate change.

Read more: In the lead up to COP26, ministers need to revolutionise procurement policies to meet net zero targets

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.