Amendment 4

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 6 June 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 7:15, 6 June 2023

My Lords, I support Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who introduced it very powerfully. I want to talk to the House about the real relationship between nature conservation and climate change and the need to bring those together in the regulatory process. Nature restoration is essential for our reaching of net zero—we cannot do net zero without restoring nature; I think that is globally accepted now—but nature restoration is important to economic prosperity in several other ways. More than half of global GDP is considered moderately or highly dependent on natural assets and half the world’s population is completely dependent on biodiversity for their livelihoods. That means that biodiversity is as important as climate change.

Biodiversity is also highly material in assessing risk, including financial and economic risk, and it is pretty clear that if biodiversity is going down the tubes, so is the economy and, indeed, so are we. So, it is a bit of a no-brainer, in my view, that financial services regulators should have, as a regulatory principle, net zero and nature recovery together: the two are absolutely indissolubly linked. I hope the Minister will not say that the provisions that are in the Bill for net zero will act as a proxy for biodiversity restoration. It does not work that way: net zero is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition for biodiversity recovery.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, threatened the House with simply reading out all the commitments that have already been made that are encapsulated in her Amendment 15. I want to add another one that no one has mentioned so far. The Environmental Audit Committee, in its report on biodiversity in June 2021, highlighted the fact that, although some progress had been made in transforming the financial system to reflect the pressures of climate change, the whole accompanying handshake with biodiversity was way down the line and much slower and needed to accelerate. It called on the Government to play a part in creating a narrative that there is a lot of international commitment to biodiversity recovery linked with climate change that we are going to have to respond to in this country, because we have signed up to it globally, and that it is therefore important to get the financial services industry and its regulation up to speed soon in order to cope with that global pressure. The noble Baroness’s Amendment 15 would do that and, more importantly, it would secure this through a legislative approach and not be overly reliant on voluntary action.

Without delaying the House any longer, I also support Amendment 91 on deforestation. I will not repeat what the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, but it was the bee’s knees. I end with a note of distress at the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord Naseby, about pension scheme investments and investors and pension committees and pension advisers’ responsibility and duty to pensioners. I declare an interest, having set up the Environment Agency pension scheme some 25 years ago to be, at that stage, the only really green pension scheme and now probably the foremost green pension scheme in the world.

Let us not be in any doubt: there is not a dichotomy about responsibility to pensioners and taking action on climate change and biodiversity. They are absolutely one and the same thing. If climate change and biodiversity decline continue, there will be irreparable harm to the economics that pensioners and pension schemes depend on. Let us not be in any doubt about that: pension scheme trustees and their advisers—and I hope, if the Minister will accept Amendment 15, their regulators—have a responsibility towards climate change and biodiversity recovery, because it is absolutely in the economic interests of their beneficiaries.