As we begin 2022, it is worth reflecting on one of the big Climate Transition success stories of the twenty twenties: the growth of the Electric Vehicles (EV) market.
At the end of 2021, the UN-convened Net-Zero Banking Alliance brought together banks worldwide, representing over 40% of global banking assets. They are committed to aligning their lending and investment portfolios with net-zero emissions by 2050. As of the end of 2021, major banks have pledged a trillion dollars of lending towards climate change.
Let’s not get obsessed with existing green sectors
In the journey towards Net-Zero, we see significant commitments towards green investments. However, paving new green roads and paths will not get us there. To reach the desired Net-Zero goals, it is crucial to re-construct the non-green sectors such as utility, energy, and discretionary consumer goods.
The banks’ mantra (in driving the economy and businesses towards sustainability) has been the holy trinity of investing, divesting, and engaging. However, these decisions need primary measurement metrics.
Popular measurement metrics today on the carbon front utilize bottom-up carbon footprint data (Scope-1, 2 & 3 emissions), which is aggregated and reported by the companies themselves. Using this data is not enough as carbon-focused exclusionary strategies often drive most investments towards clean sectors such as information technology. Carbon-focused exclusionary strategies mean taking firms with larger current carbon footprints out of the investment portfolio. This strategy negatively penalizes high carbon-intensive sectors such as utilities and energy and regions such as the Mediterranean.
At Entelligent, we used this data on screening out S&P 500 companies with a high carbon footprint and noticed a 20% portfolio tilt towards the technology sector.
Source: Carbon data from ISS. Portfolio used S&P 500. We screened in 25% of the companies in the S&P 500 with the lowest carbon footprint.
To add more power to climate change we need more attention on the sectors and companies that are changing their traditional pathways and paving a more sustainable future. Re-constructing old roads can be harder than building new ones. There is always a need for additional traffic management and temporary breakdowns during re-construction.
A great example: the Consumer Discretionary sector
One sector that is overcoming all the re-construction barriers is the Consumer Discretionary sector. Entelligent’s T-Risk (Climate Paris Aligned Scores) is designed to capture these measurable and material climate transitions. When we screen the same S&P 500 portfolio using Entelligent T-Risk to choose 25% of the companies that are leading these climate transitions we see a big portfolio tilt towards this sector. Real Estate and HealthCare also get higher climate transition scores.
Source: T-Risk from Entelligent, Portfolio used S&P 500. We screened in 25% of the companies in the S&P 500 with the best T-Risk scores.
One reason the Consumer Discretionary sector is doing so well is the inclusion of Electric Vehicles (EV). According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), vehicle manufacturers have announced over $150 billion in investments to achieve collective production targets of more than 13 million EVs annually by 2025 (though much more could be in the pipeline).
The best part of this commitment is it is not a distant 2030 or a 2050 commitment, but a near-future 2025 commitment. We can experience this commitment together and it sets a great example for other industry groups to follow.
It’s not all about Tesla
According to the Entelligent T-Risk analysis, this sector has players that are less obvious but who are making great strides towards measurable and substantial sustainability. These players include The BMW Group and DAIMLER AG. BMW is the latest global carmaker to commit to setting a science-based target. It is also committed to procuring 100% of its electricity from renewable sources for its operations by 2050, as part of its commitment to be 100% Renewable (RE100) led by the Climate Group (see https://www.there100.org/ ). Ford is following this trend by innovating and integrating projects like the Ford Bronco Sport which uses 100% recycled ocean plastics for parts. Another example, higher in the automotive supply chain is the Swedish steelmaker SSAB which is now 5 years into a program to develop a fossil-free steel process called Hybrit. The results of these efforts are reflected in the financial returns and the balance sheet indicators of these companies.
The importance of Finance in fueling EV growth
It is good to see how banks are supporting this journey in these sectors by fueling the speed towards NetZero with large amounts of capital.
The banks’ total auto loans rose to $530.20 billion in the third quarter, up from $518.11 billion in the second quarter and $489.16 billion in the same period 12 months ago.
The top of the funders is Capital One Financial Corporation. Of the top 25 lenders, ranked by auto loans in the third quarter, Capital One remained in the No.1 spot as the top auto loan lender for the fourth consecutive quarter. With a loan book of $74.72 billion in total auto loans, the bank posted a 4.2% quarter-on-quarter and a 14.3% year-over-year rise in auto loans.
The UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, which will soon commence in Glasgow, Scotland is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference. The time is getting closer to discuss the most important issue that the entire mankind on this planet is facing – “the existential risk issue”!
According to the UN Climate Change report issued this August, the world is already certain to face further climate disruption for decades, if not centuries, to come. Our future is in jeopardy. Generation Z and Generation Alpha are very worried and demanding justice.
The “Blah Blah Blah” Moment of Greta Thunberg
At the preparatory Youth4Climate event in Milan, Italy September 2021, Greta Thunberg (the Climate Activist of Fridays for Future) said: “They invite cherry-picked young people to meetings like this to pretend that they listen to us. But they clearly don’t listen to us. Our emissions are still rising. Science doesn’t lie.”
Throughout her speech she mocked the decision-makers absence of real actions, repeating the words: “Blah Blah Blah”.
Generation Z represents people that are now 9-24 years old and accounts for 32% of the worldwide population. Generation Alpha is the generation born after 2010 that has a population of around 2.5 million worldwide. The problem here is that these two generations will be most impacted by climate change but are not heard because they are far from the power that is charged with delivering immediate action.
Young people can smell greenwashing
Young people are not fools. They are objective, not subjective and they care more about facts and science than slogans. They can smell greenwashing a mile away!
So, let’s lay down some science and facts here. This is the reality:
On the face of it, there is progress. The UK and France are two examples of (a few) countries that have set legally binding targets on achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (NZE). About one-fifth of the world’s 2000 largest public companies, representing sales of nearly $14 trillion, now have net-zero commitments.
However, the reality is not so great. According to a report by the Race to Zero Campaign, the net-zero commitments vary hugely in their quality and only 20% of commitments meet the minimum set of robustness criteria, or ‘starting line’, as set out by the UN.
The “Blah Blah” talk from Greta wasn’t the only moment from the youth COP that epitomized the lack of communication between the most powerful generations and the activists. The gap between what is real and what is promised is the real miscommunication here.
From this communication gap, it is very clear that we need solutions for the looming climate crisis, but the real issues here are:
Activists without power
Powerful decision-makers who are not active enough
How to prioritize the most urgent and achievable
Before we go any further, let’s state the problem correctly.
The glass is 80% empty
In a public conference, the International Energy Agency (IEA) presented their latest research on world energy. We can spot immediately a stark trend. Not even the pledges so far announced by 50 countries get us close to the Net Zero Emission target that we need (see the APS line below).
Worse, the Stated Policies Scenario (STEPS) is where we are now, pre-any further announcements. Sadly, we still have no real plan of action from global stakeholders (including regulators) about how we will close any of these gaps to get us to NZE.
As Laura Cozzi, Chief Energy Modeller at the IEA stated during her presentation, “the Glasgow pledges for 2030 are covering only 20% of emission reductions gap to Net-Zero … we are actually going into the Glasgow negotiation (COP26) not with the glass-half-empty. It is actually 80% empty.”
This is why it is all Blah Blah Blah.
Why COP26 might not be the right place
COP26 is a place where all Governments from countries of any size can talk about the Climate Crisis and its consequences. But the real polluters now are a much smaller group. The top 20 global economies (the G20) are in fact are responsible for 75% of the global CO2 emissions. (https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58897805).
At a recent speech to Italian MPs, the recent Nobel Prize winner, Giorgio Parisi (awarded for his studies on complex systems) “observed again the warning that if the temperature of our planet increases by more than 2° then we enter a terra incognita in which there may also be other phenomena that we have not foreseen that can greatly worsen the situation.”
Here we are not talking about any regulatory, investment, business, or economic risk. This is pure existential risk. An existential risk is one that threatens the entire future of humanity.
More specifically, existential risks are those that threaten the extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development.
Not sure if COP26 is the right place with the right representation to address this existential risk. Not sure if Climate Submit needs 25,000 people and more discussions and questions on the table. We can’t save the planet by consuming more and more energy and fuel to bring these 25,000 people together. Pandemic has taught us to solve a lot of issues efficiently and virtually. Where are the lessons from the pandemic?
Additionally, the climate change problem needs grass-root involvement from all the representations from OECD to the developing world, from millennials to generation alpha, from all sectors. Do we have all the voices in the mix?
Climate Change: What can we do?
The macro policies required are actually well known at this point in time. These include investments in energy efficiency, electrification, renewables, and new long-term green technologies (for example green steel and cement, carbon capture, green hydrogen).
However, to push these policies forward into reality, we need to re-define the “7 Principles of Economics” (see below) and factor climate change into each of them. COP26 is a great opportunity to do this. Doing so will help to build a robust global solution that will mitigate the global risk.
Here are some drafts to help get the discussion going from “Blah Blah” to an “Aha” moment
Economic Principle 1: Scarcity Forces Trade-Off
Climate is the most scarce resource we possess at this time. You just need to check facts on carbon, carbon budgets, and the current utilization of fossil fuels. We are in a phase of existential risk, facing a huge trade-off between emissions budgets for the current generation and what we leave for future generations. What youth activists are asking is very important. If we translate what they are saying into climate finance language, it is the time where instead of discounting the future to compute NPV (Net Present Value) and IRR (Internal Rate of Return) we add a premium to set the expectations right. This will do justice to the future generations that deserve the planet they crave to live in. Let’s discount the present for carbon and not for the future.
Economic Principle 2: Costs versus Benefits
Welfare analysis is integral here and it is not just about value extraction now. Value creation should be central to all business and government activities and social accounting is getting more important than ever before. Moving forward, the rule book should factor in environmental and community externalities. We need tighter rules and participation from regulators and accounting professionals to get this right. This is not just about a discussion of accounting standards but more practically it means standardization, applications, and mandatory reporting regulations across regions and sectors.
Economic Principle 3: Thinking at the Margin
We need to expand the definition of the margin from profits to welfare. We must include externalities in business decision-making when determining the margin for consumption and investment. We should have carbon labels on every product we consume, every penny we invest, and every choice we make.
Economic Principle 4: Incentives Matter
Now it’s time to make the carbon tax real and very expensive. We need more and more global subsidies to promote alternative fuels, carbon-negative technologies, and energy efficiency. Electric Vehicles (EV’s) and solar power are not only for the rich. Let’s bring them into all communities, regions, and lifestyles. To make this real we need support and the right tax policies from regulators across the globe. We have observed over time that pressure creates performance. For example, the good news is that Cozzi also predicted that global oil consumption will peak around 2025 because of EV adoption. We need more regulatory pressures to take the necessary action on climate and provide the future that Generation Z and Generation Alpha deserve.
Economic Principle 5: Trade Makes People Better Off
We need the OECD countries to lead by example. This means accelerating the development and trading of carbon-negative technology and energy efficiency technology. We should use the principles of comparative advantage and free trade to disperse such technologies in order to speed up global healing of the planet. After all, who will care about the balance of payments if there is no humanity? We must learn, lead and share.
Economic Principle 6: Markets Coordinate Trade
Trade not the carbon. Carbon credits are corrupting the system and must be dissolved. Instead of trading carbon, companies and countries should own it and reduce it. We need markets to coordinate and trade more of the technologies that can reduce carbon. In the equation of comparative advantage (David Ricardo’s basis of trade), we need carbon cost factored in.
Economic Principle 7: Future Consequences Count
Getting our heads around the idea that we have limited resources is key today! We have to re-learn to live with limited resources as consumers. This means that carbon responsibility metrics should be added to all consumer goods. Only then can consumers account for the true future cost of their current consumption. For every product we eat, wear, use, or consume, the opportunity cost of future environmental consequences needs to be factored in and adjusted. This also means we need to revise the Capital Asset Pricing Model from its traditional definition to a more sustainable Carbon Adjusted Pricing Model.
We don’t need any more Blah Blah Blah. We need to better integrate carbon counting today with the existential climate risk of tomorrow. Doing this will help to redefine the global economic system and gives us a real “Aha!” moment. This is what we need at COP26.
With thanks to Giorgio Burlini and Edmund Bradford for additional writing.