Farming News - Environment Agency Chair says greenwash is delaying preparation for economic climate shocks

Environment Agency Chair says greenwash is delaying preparation for economic climate shocks

04 Jul 2022
Frontdesk / Renewables

Widespread greenwashing is compromising efforts to prepare for climate impacts like floods and heatwaves, the Chair of the Environment Agency will say today, as she warns that investors and the wider public are being let down as a result.

Emma Howard Boyd, who is also interim Chair of the Green Finance Institute, will say businesses are “embedding liability” and “storing up risk for their investors” by giving a false impression they are addressing the climate crisis and the danger is people “won’t realise this deception until it is too late.”

She will warn nearly £650 billion of public and private infrastructure investment planned by 2030 is at considerable risk unless increasingly severe climate impacts are considered in planning and delivery.

Speaking at the UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment Annual Forum at The Institution of Civil Engineers in one of her final speeches before leaving the Environment Agency in September, she will say: 

“The more businesses are transparent about their plans to transition to net zero and prepare for climate shocks, the easier it is to benchmark best practice, set standards and celebrate the companies that really are delivering on their commitments.  

“As with the government’s ambition for net zero by 2050, delivering on climate resilience and nature recovery requires robust, consistent and trusted data.

“If we fail to identify and address greenwashing, we allow ourselves false confidence that we are already addressing the causes and treating the symptoms of the climate crisis.”

Emma Howard Boyd will praise the work of NGOs such as ShareAction, Make My Money Matter and ClientEarth “for their tireless work to call this out.”

The importance of driving private investment into climate adaptation was demonstrated earlier this year through the Bank of England’s first climate stress test, which showed that UK banks and insurers will end up taking on nearly £340 billion worth of climate-related losses by 2050 unless action is taken to curb rising temperatures and sea levels.

Highlighting under-investment in climate adaptation, Emma Howard Boyd will say:

“Such action will require collaboration between the public and private sectors. Around the world, just five per cent of climate finance goes towards resilience and virtually none of that comes from the private sector.”

She will also call for more government involvement to help drive investment in climate adaptation, starting with a Treasury-commissioned review to assess the economics of climate resilience, similar to the 2021 Dasgupta Review into the economics of biodiversity.

She will ask that it:

“…considers costs and benefits of resilient investment both nationally and by economic sectors; what trajectory that investment should follow; and the appropriate balance between public and private investment.

“This would help us understand how preparedness for climate shocks supports sustainable economic growth establish an overarching ambition for adaptation investment and a plan to achieve it.”

Emma Howard Boyd’s intervention comes after the publication of the Climate Change Committee’s annual progress report last week, which included a reminder that “expected changes in the UK climate will lead to risks across all areas of the UK’s economy, society and environment” and that “adaptation action must be undertaken today to prepare for these impacts and is essential alongside (but not in place of) efforts to reach Net Zero”.