Finally, belatedly, the climate crisis is emerging from the fog of global politics to take its place on the world stage as the greatest crisis of modern times.
It has taken children, pressure groups, scientists, activists, mavericks, visionaries, debate, religion, technology, natural disasters and pandemics to get here.
Ideas abound about how to tackle the emergency such as our own of putting habitat restoration and rewilding to the fore, or others looking at transport, energy use, food production, architecture and design, how we live and interact.
But it isn’t the unprecedented speed of collaborations finding COVID-19 vaccines that inspire this new focus, nor the angry tears of Greta Thunberg, revealing documentaries, hurricanes or wildfires scorching nations black.
It is what has always been at the root of progress or stagnation. Money.
Slowly there is an acceptance (if not willingness) that governments need to spend on action, research and solutions. That lifestyle choices need enabled, technologies advanced and embraced, and that changes need to happen fast.
Businesses are at a crossroads too. Either shamed into diversifying in the face of well-organised revolt, speculating on future performance and trends or genuinely concerned innovators and change makers leading the way.
Few have pockets deep enough to fund all necessary initiatives.
Local authorities and world governments are still grappling with the cost of the coronavirus pandemic.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak today signalled a tightening of budgets. A swathe of public pay freezes for the majority of workers, the axing of millions in foreign aid spending, all of which puts him at odds with efforts for a green new deal, green recovery and the UK’s own drive to net zero.
Did someone mention COP26? In Glasgow? Awkward. But as he said, we live in unprecedented times.
Not many organisations were in a position to transition to zero emissions completely even before his spending announcements.
Almost all will need time to offset in some way for the foreseeable future and a plan.
They will want to move to a climate focused future in a way that will not adversely impact their budgets in already trying times. Their priority will be safeguarding portfolios and opening up new routes to protecting and increasing returns on investment.
Yet they do so against a backdrop of investors, shareholders, clients and colleagues becoming more and more concerned and interested in their ethical and climate focused activities – all of which is happening before any legislative demands are rolled-out at scale and a time of unprecedented uncertainty in the economy.
The safe ports of old no longer look as attractive. They need fresh shoots of opportunity. All of which has sparked urgent new conversations about an emerging new market trend in carbon trading.
It was laid before Westminster earlier this month as a lever to help the UK Government achieve its carbon targets and replace the EU ETS after Brexit concludes.
Lindsay Edwards, from the Pinsent Mason energy market regulation team, says: “I think participants will be keen to see the outstanding details of the UK scheme, and would also be keen for the carbon tax question to be closed off, so there is a clear direction of travel and they can prepare.”
But there is clearly work to do. “Britain believes it has chosen the ideal moment to throw its weight behind a financial innovation that might help save the world,” write Elisa Martinuzzi and Marcus Ashworth in an opinion piece for Bloomberg.
“Companies that struggle to cut their own carbon footprints could certainly do with a deep, liquid pool of credits they can buy to help them satisfy the demands of increasingly green investors. Xi Jinping’s announcement that China aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 and President-elect Joe Biden’s push for a net-zero economy by 2050 could give any embryonic market a jolt.,” they add.
Reuters highlights that London, for all its ambition, needs to be fast out the traps if it is to become a world leader on the carbon stage and its ability to lead the world in using investment to bring emissions down.
It tells how China is poised to take its position as the world’s biggest carbon trader as part of its own efforts to reverse its status as one of the world’s worst polluters. It expects to include 2267 power plants in its first phase, according to newly released documents.
City AM reports that energy businesses also want the UK government to ‘embrace’ emissions trading. Edward Thicknesse explains that many have written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to argue that it is the best way to cut emissions.
The letter ends: “We believe that a UK ETS (emissions trading system) is the most efficient, cost-effective, and transparent mechanism for achieving the UK’s climate goals”.
On one hand it seems almost duplicitous to consider how safeguarding profits with sound ethical investments will prop up and provide safe haven to some of those who have helped exacerbate the climate and nature crises in the first place. But it is a start. Far better investment in natural solutions than the alternative.
FURTHER READING: A brief history of Europe’s Emissions Trading System
And for those genuinely looking to do their bit and preserve their futures with all the benefits that brings in terms of jobs, services and the economic cycle, creating ways for them to do so away from traditional routes is hopefully something to be encouraged.
Regardless, both bring real opportunity for the environmental and conservation sectors. For the first time in living memory mass investment may finally become available from private organisations to help fund nature’s fightback.
Grants, philanthropic gifts, sponsorship, crowdfunding, donations – all can and do contribute to the global effort of restoring nature and finding new ways to prevent pollution, allow for research and all the activities that flow from them.
But the renewed interest in the carbon markets and carbon credits is taking off at pace. Does that mean aspirations for the mass reforestation of our planet could become not just ambition but soon see roots in the ground?
Reduction is always going to be better than cure. Carbon trading cannot become a fig leaf to avoid tackling emissions or carbon footprint. But it can aid the process, buy time or help mitigate those elements that cannot be eradicated completely.
Equally there has to be an understanding that native species and broadleaf tree planting and peatland restoration will do far more good and sequester more carbon and provide greater benefits to biodiversity than cheaper, quicker to grow plantation forests.
This has to be a long-term partnership. The choice of tree-planting and who invests where may very well be what separates – and identifies – those in it for the greater good and guard against those opportunists out to make an easy buck and bathe in greenwashing PR.
Kaitiaki Consulting have already made our intentions clear. We want to plant a billion native species trees across Scotland, restore peatland and natural habitats. The right trees in the right places with the right partners. Trees for Scotland, trees for good, trees for life.
In the coming months we will be focusing on our Billion Trees Scotland campaign and calling on others to join us in a nationwide collaboration to put nature first, enable change and work for the future.
We are a woodland nation, we are in a nature and climate emergency, we need to revive our world and think like a mountain. All these things other organisations are doing and more.
So talk to us, work together. The time is now.
Climate Notes | compiled by Planet Scotland