«Sustainable» not enough. «Emergency finance» is needed

In a world’s first, the British Parliament recently declared we’re in a climate emergency. Following suit, the Irish Parliament also declared a climate emergency.

Ireland last year was the first country in the world to pass a law on fossil fuel divestment with regard to its sovereign fund, Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund.

In the last few weeks, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the time of Cop21 and Paris Agreement and still one of the most competent and influential persons at world level when it comes to the fight against climate change, declared that she would begin declining to accept honorary degrees from colleges not committed to divesting from fossil fuels. She made this step together with Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and a person in just one word you can call the “father” of the fossil fuel divestment movement and campaign, which represents the biggest ever grassroots phenomenon in the entire history of sustainable, responsible, ethical investing.

Greta Thunberg, the world-renowned Swedish “fearless girl” that in Summer 2018 triggered the impressive worldwide climate strike-fridays for future movement, repeatedly said loud and clear during her speeches across a number of Parliaments and public squares throughout Europe that fighting against climate change means keeping it in the ground (with reference to fossil fuels, obviously).

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, the “father” of the SDGs that have rapidly become the global framework with regard to sustainability, speaking in Rome in the Pontificial Academy of Sciences months ago, clearly stated that among “the ten climate change commandments” one is “divest from GHG companies”.

Harvard University and Cambridge University, that have been targeted for years by fossil fuel divestment campaigns among the strongest, although one differently from another have both recently open up the possibility of starting a fossil fuel divestment process.

Pope Francis, in addition to having issued four years ago the hugely inspirational and groundbreaking encyclical Laudato si’ (see paragraph 165, for instance), in June 2018 convened a meeting for executives of the main companies in the oil and natural gas sectors where he stressed a number of things on fossil fuels, Paris Agreement and the efforts required by the global energy transition («Yet even more worrying is the continued search for new fossil fuel reserves, whereas the Paris Agreement clearly urged keeping most fossil fuels underground», Pope Francis said).

After having put these elements in a row, and knowing that many more could be mentioned, consider also that few days ago it turned out that according to the International Monetary Fund global fossil fuel subsidies remain large, very large, unsustainably large. That means our economic model is still abundantly depending on the burning of fossil fuels.

So, things are quite simple: there’s no chance to fight climate change effectively if we continue on this path and continue to burn fossil fuels.

We know that sustainable finance has grown considerably and fast worldwide over the last years. But it’s still far from being enough. What we urgently need is something different and new, starting from the words we use to call this “something”. Since, you know, words matter.

I think that what we need could be called emergency finance. We need to call on everybody in the financial space to join forces in order to define it exactly. Then, we need to deliver it as soon as possibile.

The clock is ticking, no way we can stop it. What we must stop is climate change by doing whatever it takes. Including a switch from sustainable to emergency finance. Also with the aim of scaling up the evocative power of the narrative around the kind and mainly the unprecedented magnitude of investments we urgently need in the years to come.

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