PRI will lead new taskforce focused on supporting dialogue between policymakers and non-state actors pursuing net zero-aligned strategies.
Political “turbulence” arising from different stances on climate change will need to be respected by the UN-backed Taskforce on Net Zero Policy, according to David Atkin, CEO of the UN-convened Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).
On Sunday (3 December), the PRI announced the formation of the Taskforce on Net Zero Policy at the UN Secretary-General’s High-level meeting of Non-State Entities at COP28 in Dubai. The move is part of the advancement of recommendations made by the Secretary-General’s High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Net-Zero Emissions Commitments for Non-State Actors in its ‘Integrity Matters’ report, published at COP27.
“The taskforce has come out of recommendation 10 from the HLEG report last year,” said Atkin. “It identified that it was important to have a forum for discussion around hurdles for the adoption of net zero and facilitate an exchange between the practitioners who are seeking to implement net zero and policymakers who are setting hopefully an enabling environment.
“It’s clear that regulators and policymakers are wanting to provide more guidance and direction as we’re dealing with these systemic risks and having the taskforce to bring the ecosystem together seemed like a really smart thing to do.”
The taskforce’s launch comes as concerns on political rollbacks on climate action grow. Dutch Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag reportedly said at COP that she didn’t know whether far-right Dutch leader Geert Wilders, who is trying to form a governing coalition in the Netherlands, will be able to implement some of his pledges, such as exiting the Paris Agreement or dismantling green funds. The UK has been heavily criticised for a number of net-zero u-turns this year.
On how the taskforce would work with regulators and policymakers in countries with climate-sceptical leadership, Atkin said “political cycles come and go”.
“You will have changing perspectives from different countries as they go through their election cycles. That needs to be respected. But at the same time, clearly, in a global community, we recognise that directionally we need to decarbonise our economy, and we need to enable those things that will enable that decarbonisation to occur.” Atkin said this included policy, which was a really important enabler. “That will be the focus of the taskforce and we’ll have to deal with the turbulence. And if there’s some that don’t have quite the same view, we will need to respect that at the same time.”
Next year will see an unprecedented number of elections globally, involving more than half of the world’s population. As well as mature democracies such as the US, UK and European Union, many other highly populous members of the Group of 20 are also going to the polls, including Russia and India, as well as developing countries with large populations, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
In a statement, the PRI said the Taskforce will “aim to balance the needs of relevant private sector actors with the demands and timelines of a regulatory environment geared to a net zero future, while also maintaining focus on developing nations at the forefront of climate change”.
Atkin said that the governance of the Taskforce, which is currently being developed, would include “significant high level of senior representation of institutions who are working in this space”.
“In the coming weeks, we’ll be able to provide more information. We’re getting very positive feedback from those major institutions of the globe – this taskforce needs to represent the diversity of the globe. It can’t just be the developed market. It’s got to have the emerging markets perspective at the same level at the table in the running of this taskforce. “
The PRI will serve as secretariat of the group alongside the Vulnerable 20 (V20) Group and the United Nations Environment Program – Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) among others.
Engaging with policymakers has been rising up the agenda for net-zero-focused investors, with the UN-Convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA), launching policy engagement guidelines for members that collates existing initiative, frameworks and guidance in the area.
According to the guidance, net-zero-aligned engagement and advocacy approaches should be accountable, with members’ activity reflecting the interest of its stakeholders; active, as it assists policymakers in finding solutions to transition challenges and developing policy; consistent, as engagements should be in line with an individual member’s own net-zero commitments; and transparent, as members should be able to explain how they ensure their engagement with public policy debates are consistent with their climate commitments.
Matt Holmes, Group Head of Political and Government Affairs at Zurich Insurance Group, said the guidelines had been released to coincide with COP28 where the topic was expected to be discussed. “It doesn’t say anything that members wouldn’t be doing already, but we’re capturing it in a very simple form, so everyone has a ready point of reference.”
The NZAOA has also released a tool on “credible transition plans” for asset owners, covering both preparation and evaluation. Wendy Walford, Head of Climate and Nature Risk at Legal & General, said the guidance focused on mapping emerging and existing standards and frameworks for members, and encouraged policymakers to balance ambition and flexibility and work towards greater interoperability of transition plan frameworks.
Transition plans have “huge momentum” according to the UK’s Transition Plan Taskforce, which plans to ensure its TPT Disclosure Framework has close alignment with the standard of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).
At Finance Day yesterday (4 December) at COP28 close to 400 organisations from 64 jurisdictions committed to advancing the adoption or use of the ISSB’s climate-related reporting at a global level.