“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
Said by Tancredi to the aging patriarch in the acclaimed novel The Leopard, it is a sentiment the world could well adopt as we work to solve the current financial crisis. Yet, even as the consequences of the crisis are addressed, there is a danger that we could lose sight of another issue of great significance.
Scientists overwhelmingly agree that, in the past 200 years, global temperatures have been rising. They also increasingly agree that human activity is a significant contributing factor. In December in Copenhagen, governments could take substantive steps to combat climate change as part of a post-Kyoto protocol. However, it seems they may defer meaningful action in an effort to protect fragile economies. That is understandable, but it overlooks the interdependence of the economy and the environment.
It has become readily apparent that issues related to the environment have a financial impact which affects the economy as well. Patterns of business and investment need to take such issues into consideration to ensure the health of the planet and the global economy. As highlighted in the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, business-as-usual is an anti-growth strategy: a high carbon path will eventually create an environment so hostile that it could eradicate economic growth. Our industry cannot expect to remain aloof from such consequences.
2009 is a watershed year. The decisions made now regarding the economy and the environment will shape the future for decades. Neither issue is simple. Yet, the unprecedented cooperation of governments in averting a total financial meltdown, and the successful environmental action on reducing CFCs and acid rain, as well as on cleaning up European rivers and lakes, are examples of what can be achieved through concerted international action.
As the long term is a fundamental concern of professionals in asset management and retirement and pensions, we need to discuss and identify where the interests of business and sustainability intersect. And we can use our collective power to influence decisions regarding both. Doing so is in our best interests and that of our clients – and it is the only responsible course.