G7 leaders are not short of advice, nor lessons from local history.
‘Cornish lads are fishermen and Cornish lads are miners too. But when the fish and tin are gone, what are the Cornish boys to do?’ The graffiti daubed on the gates of the last Cornish Tin mine, which closed in 1998, is a reminder that the challenges of achieving a just transition are not entirely new.
But it’s unlikely that Group of Seven leaders will have time to visit South Crofty mine, now part of a World Heritage Site, nor a new visitor attraction made of more recently extracted materials, given the weight and urgency of the issues to be discussed this weekend at their two-day summit in England’s furthest west county.
Although directed to all governments, the timing of an open letter from 450 investors representing US$41 trillion AUM may have further focused G7 leaders’ minds, noting as it did the scale of the action required before 2030 to keep 2050 net-zero pathways on track. The tone having been set at the Earth Day summit in April, it’s possible G7 leaders could make progress this weekend on investors’ prime concern: more ambitious 2030 NDCs before COP26, also backed by almost 80 CEOs of global corporates.
Some of the groundwork has been laid, with G7 finance ministers endorsing mandatory climate reporting and their environment counterparts banning international coal financing. Leaders’ resolve may also have been steeled by indications of the scale of risks to financial system stability, as the Bank of England and other central banks developed scenario analysis and stress-testing capabilities.
The host country has also been burnishing its credentials, building net-zero commitments into its procurement processes, unveiling its green taxonomy taskforce, and progressing plans for UK pension schemes to report on climate risks from October. But whether carbon pricing is on the menu at the Carbis Bay Hotel remains to be seen. And while the EU nailed its colours to the mast this week, some guests may be grateful to be at a distance from the top table.
As summiteers headed west, the practical business of building the infrastructure of sustainable investment continued, via new standards-setting bodies, new nature-based reporting frameworks, new due diligence requirements, updated green bond guidance and increased portfolio decarbonisation commitments. Shareholder pressure also persisted. With this kind of pace and scale of change, it’s little wonder that service providers – such as asset managers and index houses – are rapidly evolving their product offerings and indeed business models, reorientating toward more impact-driven and collaboration-led approaches.
But this week also saw an acknowledgement that the path to net zero very much depends on where you’re starting from, with local realities dictating the pace and nature of change. UNDP Regional Advisor on Climate Change Joanne Manda was talking about the ‘global south’ when suggesting we hold on too long to the past if we don’t plan properly for the future. But she could have been referring to Cornwall, which traces the decline of its tin and copper mines to the late 19th Century.
One legacy of the G7 summit is a regional development deal for this beautiful if economically unequal county, but its renewal might depend more on its ability to grasp the opportunities of transition.