A Just Transition

Global communication

In advance of the IFoA webinar, 'Finance in the Public Interest: A Just Transition – Why it matters and how investors can enable it?' which discusses the unequal impacts of climate change, the role of policy and regulation in incorporating justice into the low carbon transition, and the impact investors can have in encouraging companies to develop Just Transition plans, Chair of the discussion panel, Sandy Trust (Chair of the IFoA Sustainability Board) focusses on the need for global collaboration in order to achieve net-zero.

America started measuring atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at the Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii in 1958. Since then atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased from around 320 parts per million (ppm) to around 420 ppm today, an increase of over 30%. Scientists estimate this level is now comparable to the Pliocene period, when sea level may have been as much as 17 metres higher than today, global temperatures 2˚C to 3˚C higher and poles ice free. Climate change is happening more quickly than anticipated with the impacts already being felt by millions. These impacts will continue and worsen till at least 2050.

But there is good news – more people than ever before are aware of the climate crisis. Net-zero commitments span hundreds of governments and thousands of companies, cities, states and universities. More people than ever before believe the story of climate change and that we must now take action at an unprecedented pace and scale to decarbonise our economy and so limit global warming.

This ability to believe in shared stories is a significant enabler of human progress. It allows large numbers of people to collaborate around a shared objective and to share social norms. Money for example is one of the stories that is almost universally believed by people, allowing us to trade with each other.

As well as a belief in shared stories, social scientists point to at least two other major forces that bind together communities – social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust) and strong institutions.

Conversely, failings in these areas will divide communities and inequity is particularly divisive.

If we are to achieve net zero as a global community, we need to address real or perceived inequities around climate change. We need to rebuild trust between the Global North and the Global South. We need to include vulnerable and forgotten communities. We need to acknowledge and move past challenging legacy issues relating to matters such as historical emissions, whereby some of the economic beneficiaries of fossil fuels have delegated the burden of adaptation to less developed nations that are suffering the most from climate impacts.

In short, if we are to achieve net zero as a global community, equity and justice must become a central part of the shared story we must all believe in. Without this, it may be impossible to build the trust and faith we need in each other to achieve global collaboration between all countries.