Apr 21, 2022 - Energy & Environment

CEOs seen as outpacing leaders on climate action

Illustration of a life preserver in a briefcase.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Policymakers are starting to lag behind the private sector when it comes to the urgency of reducing emissions, according to Mark Carney, United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance.

Why it matters: Private sector financing is crucial to helping countries slash emissions at the pace required to meet the temperature targets set out in the Paris Agreement.

  • But there is a risk that companies and financial institutions could get too far ahead of policymakers, who need to set the rules of the road for establishing and enforcing emissions targets and timetables.

Driving the news: Carney, who leads the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), told Axios in an interview that the network representing more than $130 trillion in assets has been focused on turning commitments into action since its commitments were unveiled at COP 26 in Glasgow in November.

Yes, but: At COP26, climate activists met the GFANZ initiative with skepticism, wary of greenwashing, and that concern hasn't gone away.

  • Activist groups sent GFANZ leaders a letter Thursday calling on its members to stop financing fossil fuel projects. Separately, they published a new report that tallies ongoing investments.
  • "I understand the criticism, the criticism that no one's been moving fast enough," Carney told Axios. "Governments haven't been moving fast enough. In fact, I would argue that governments are now lagging the corporate sector, and certainly lagging the NGO and activist sector, in truly taking the problem as seriously as it needs to."
  • Carney spoke about the interplay between the private sector's role and public policy. "Finance, in the end, it's an enabler, right? It can make things possible," he said.
  • "It's like a catalyst, a catalyst needs the underlying components. And those underlying components are companies and organizations, governments that are investing in decarbonizing."
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