THE PANDEMIC was devastating for our capital city, country and economy. But the upheaval, loss of life and cost to business that would result from a full-blown climate crisis defies comprehension. It is both unimaginable and unquantifiable. As we host London Climate Action Week, my message is that all of us – cities, businesses and national governments – must move faster to reduce our carbon emissions and increase our chances of averting a catastrophic breakdown in our climate.
Our dependence on fossil fuels and Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine have led to soaring energy prices that in turn have been central to a cost-of-living crisis, which is hurting consumers and businesses. Moving towards more renewable forms of energy would allow us to dampen economic volatility, protect our planet and lay the foundations for a new era of sustainable growth. To put it another way, if our recovery from Covid-19 is to be swift, to be stable, and to succeed, it must be powered by green energy, not climate-destroying hydrocarbons.
Despite the rhetoric to “build back better” following the pandemic, as little as six per cent of stimulus spending globally has so far gone into the green economy. This is a massive, missed opportunity, but it’s also a trend that global cities, like London, are helping to arrest. By and large, we recognise the urgency of climate action and our populations are clamouring for us to be even more ambitious, wanting – and lobbying – us to go much further.
One way we are doing this is by withdrawing any investments we have in fossil fuel companies and putting our money instead into green technologies, projects and opportunities.
It makes no sense for our cities to continue to invest in the dirty polluting fossil fuel industries of the past, which are leaving families and businesses vulnerable to devastating price increases now and in the future. Ending institutional investment in companies that extract fossil fuels and contribute directly to the climate emergency sends a powerful signal that renewables are the only game in town – the only investment that we’re willing to support as a society, as well as the only viable option for private investors and industry moving forwards.
When I first stood for Mayor, I made a promise in my manifesto to take all possible steps to encourage the London Pensions Fund Authority (LPFA) to divest from their fossil fuel holdings. I’m proud to say the LPFA has now fully divested from all extractive fossil fuel companies within their listed equity portfolio. This is an important first step. But if we want to truly transform and decarbonise our energy system, we must also be mobilising and scaling-up investment in renewables as an urgent priority.
London has become the largest city in the world to sign the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, and City Hall has made our stance on green investments clear, by committing £90m to help unlock more than half a billion pounds of private investment through our innovative green bonds programme.
This initiative will support low-carbon and climate related projects in London – stimulating market demand, spawning new opportunities for sustainable businesses, and creating green jobs for Londoners, all of which will help to make our city’s target of becoming net zero-carbon by 2030 not simply an aspiration, but a reality.
A similar approach has been adopted by other major cities, coordinated through the efforts of the C40, which I chair, a global network of almost 100 mayors from global hubs. It represents over 700 million people and a quarter of the global economy. Using our collective might as cities, we are making a real difference by leading an international divestment push to help end our addiction to fossil fuels and deliver a cleaner, greener, more equitable future.
It’s time for national governments to demonstrate the same level of commitment.