Forget politicians, lets make mass micro-change today

Written by Rachel Mountain on 3rd Dec 2018

This week marks the 24th annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or COP24, for short. The two week negotiations will see representatives from nearly 200 countries gather in Katowice, Poland at venue that sits on top of a former coal mine to agree how countries will meet their obligations under the landmark Paris Agreement 2015 to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees Celsius”.

I have been fortunate to attend nine COPs over the past 11 years, experiencing the highs and lows of the Copenhagen Accord (where President Obama helped to negotiate a series of emission pledges), the Paris Agreement and, finally, arriving at COP 22 in Marrakech the morning that Donald Trump became the new US President.

The event is truly unique involves negotiators, politicians and civil servants from every country who spend their time locked in conference rooms for hours on end trying to agree the minutiae of legal texts. In this case, these meetings will hopefully move the Paris Agreement forward, if not significantly ramp-up climate commitments. Think Brexit negotiations on steroids!

Troubling times

This COP is especially important due to the dire warnings issued in the recent IPCC report and more recently the UN’s Emissions Gap report, which concluded that all nations must triple their efforts to reach the 2 degrees Celsius target after it was shown that CO2 emissions increased in 2017 following a three-year stabilisation.

All nations must triple their efforts to reach the sub-2 degrees Celsius target

But here lies the problem……COP 24 outcomes are decided by government officials, often driven by political ambition, while negotiations take place in a vacuum. Civil society and the private sector do have the opportunity to informally input into this process through initiatives like the Talanoa Dialogue and Sir David Attenborough’s #TakeYourSeat (which enables the general public to put forward suggestions to be included in his opening address), however, the fundamental process is about political will.

Taking the kind of action needed to close the emissions gap involves drastic and sustained effort: action that does not often sit well with voters. Combine this with the rise of more inward looking political agendas in the US and Brazil, and you can see how easily the ambition of the Paris Agreement can be unpicked with Trump taking the US out and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil threatening to strip powers from government environment agencies at a time when deforestation rates in the Amazon are increasing.

Private investor momentum

However, the UN report also concluded that surging momentum from the private sector and untapped potential from innovation and green financing offer pathways to bridge the emissions gap – even in the face of political intransigence. And this isn’t just about big banks or insurers pouring billions or millions into mega wind farms – this is about how we every day Joans make a difference with our money at the micro-level.

Indeed, if enough of us are prepared to invest some of our savings on the basis of environmental impact – as well as a potential financial return – then together we can create large pools of affordable finance to support mission driven businesses and social enterprises across the world, many of which provide innovation around low carbon technology based on approaches that are critically needed.

The Ethex community of environmental investors has raised more than £70 million for more than 70 small-scale organisations

That’s what we’re all about at Ethex. Our platform connects great organisations who need affordable finance to help cut carbon emissions in the UK with more than 14,000 people who want to save and invest from as little as £50 to create environmental impact. To date our community of environmental investors has raised more than £70 million for 70+ organisations, including raising more than £45 million to help finance community renewables projects in the UK mitigating around 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year – showing the power of collective action.

Change at the micro-level

One of our latest investment opportunities tackling climate change is from Electric Blue – who are looking to raise £350,000 through an Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) eligible bond offer to install and maintain 18 electric vehicle charging points (supplying renewable energy) for taxis to provide more sustainable transport in Cambridge. People can invest directly in this offer from as little as £100, whilst targeting annual returns of 5 per cent. As with any investment, however, investors should be aware that their capital is at risk and returns are not guaranteed.

In contrast, Ethex’s sister platform Energise Africa enables people to invest directly in pioneering solar businesses that install life-changing solar systems in homes in sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate universal access to affordable, reliable and clean energy for all. You can invest from as little as £50 in IFISA eligible bonds issued by solar businesses which aim to generate up to 6 per cent annual returns for investors. Capital at risk and returns not guaranteed. The collective impact of our community of investors has so far removed nearly 60,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and given nearly 250,000 people access to affordable solar energy.

We don’t need to wait for governments – we can use our money to drive real change today

With 17 of the 18 hottest years on record occurring since 2000, it is clear the world is changing and many people want to act. With a few notable exceptions sitting pretty on their substantial oil and gas profits, there are few of us that do not hope to see countries double down on their greenhouse gas commitments at COP24. However, we also don’t need to wait for governments to take action; every one of us can mobilise the power of our money to drive real change today.

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