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Financing takes priority in fighting climate change

media French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Philanthropist and co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates for a lunch at the Elysee Palace as part of the One Planet Summit in Paris. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French President Emmanuel Macron hosted about 50 heads of state in Paris on Tuesday to build momentum and increase investment to move companies and governments towards the Paris agreement global temperature goals.

In 2009, industrial nations agreed to fund climate-related projects in developing nations, with $100 billion a year by 2020. The latest estimates have the funding at $62 billion.

Macron and others are depending on the private sector to fill in the gap.

And private investors have been making announcements at the One Planet summit. On Tuesday morning, over 225 institutional investors, controlling over 26 trillion dollars of assets, say they will be working with 100 polluters, to put pressure on them as shareholders to reduce their carbon impact.

Investors are now paying attention to climate change.

“I think there are more private sector leaders who mare much more interested in this agenda and think it is part of their corporate responsibility to take it seriously. But also, the pricing and technological changes have made this much more affordable for them as an investment,” Suma Chakrabarti, the President of the European bank of reconstruction and development, told RFI.

“If you’re a private sector leader, you will be looking at your bottom line. You will want to see whether you can marry this ‘planet-wise investment’, as I would call it, with something that’s going to help you make bigger profit for your shareholders. And now we’ve got the possibility to do that.”

Green-washing summit

Some NGOs criticise this summit as another instance of green-washing. Some point to the heads of state who are in Paris, who violate human rights in their countries.

And there are sceptics of green financing in general, like Maxime Combes, an economist and spokesperson on climate issues for Attac France, an anti-globalisation group.

A lot of these investment and green business initiatives are voluntary, and they do not go far enough, he told RFI: “We need public regulations to make sure that all companies change and not only 4 or 5 of them, or 50 per cent of them that change their business plans.”

Companies need to choose the climate over profit, he says, though it is still possible to turn a profit.

“You can have economic and financial profitability,; maybe not as much as the current system. But it’s still profitable on the long term. But to get long-term in financial system, you need regulations. When you don’t have regulations, you have speculation… and speculation is the opposite of long-term, and investment in energy transition.”

And yet, Macron is banking on green finance and the green economy, and part of reassuring investors is to show that there is government and institutional support.

US missing

One country is glaringly missing at the summit: the United States. Macron did not invite Trump, but there are many Americans here.

Michael Bloomberg, the financier and former mayor of New York, announced at the summit that over 200 companies have promised to disclose climate-related financial data.

He said the US does not need the federal government to make progress on climate change.

“Because the problems are at the local level and outside of government. And so you have local governments cleaning up their acts,” he said. The public is getting involved, as are corporations.

They are “becoming very environmentally friendly, because they have no choice.”

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