UK Finance minister Rishi Sunak is to announce plans to make Britain the world’s first net zero financial services centre by 2050, the Treasury said Tuesday.
The chancellor of the exchequer will set out the plans on carbon emissions in a speech at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow on Wednesday morning.
Sunak will unveil proposals for financial institutions and listed companies that operate primarily in Britain to be required to publish net-zero transition plans.
He will also propose the creation of an expert task force to develop a “gold standard” for such decarbonisation plans, to avoid so-called greenwashing.
Next year the government will publish more detailed policies and interim targets for the transition.
Sunak will describe these commitments as “historic”, saying they will help fund the move away from coal, the shift to electric cars and planting trees, his department said.
Wednesday will be Finance Day at the UN summit, with a programme of events for finance ministers, central bank governors and heads of financial institutions.
The Treasury said it will be the “largest ever meeting of finance leaders on climate change”.
A fact sheet on Sunak’s proposals specified that it would not be mandatory for firms to commit to net zero and they could have different targets.
It also said that investments in carbon-intensive activities would still be allowed.
Sunak will also welcome commitments by over 450 firms in the global financial industry with over $130 trillion (£95 trillion) in assets to align with the climate goals in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
This commitment comes from a sector-wide initiative called the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero launched in April and chaired by Mark Carney, the former Bank of England governor and now the UN special envoy for climate action and finance.
The Paris Agreement adopted after landmark talks in 2015 set an ambitious goal to cap global warming at “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and 1.5C if possible.
The UK financial sector’s amount of carbon emissions exceeded the net annual output of most countries in 2019 as a result of worldwide investments, a study by environmentalist groups including Greenpeace claimed in May.
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