My Lords, this has been a fascinating if somewhat disheartening debate, and I have learned much listening to the contributions from noble Lords on all sides of the House.
We welcome the tabling of government Amendment 4, which brings forward new provisions relating to sustainability disclosure requirements, but we agree with the views expressed across the House, particularly as set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, arguing that the Bill simply does not go far enough in supporting the country’s green ambitions.
We support many of the amendments in principle but particularly Amendment 15 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and Amendment 91 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the latter having been signed by my noble friend Lady Chapman.
The financial services sector touches many more aspects of our lives then we may sometimes realise, with firms’ investment decisions having a direct impact on virtually all sectors of the economy. This activity can, and often does, do much that is good. For example, if we are to secure the green jobs of the future, businesses will need investment. But, as we see in some cases, such as investment activity that leads to deforestation, there can be severe negative environmental impacts. In a recent poll cited by Global Witness, 77% of UK savers said they would be unhappy to discover that their pension was funding deforestation and habitat loss, with 14 million people estimated to switch pension provider if they made such a discovery. However, as Amendment 7 highlights, there is currently no way for the public, nor indeed the Government, to tell if their money is invested in that way, and therefore no way for consumers to exercise choice. That surely cannot be right.
Amendment 91 would implement recommendations from the Government’s own Global Resource Initiative taskforce in relation to deforestation, a practice which causes significant harm to global climate ambitions, as well as to indigenous peoples who are evicted from their ancestral homes. We are told by the Government that they are serious about achieving net zero and protecting nature, yet, at present, the net-zero regulatory principle still fails to mention nature, which is what Amendment 15 would correct. Indeed, nature is not even mentioned in the Bill. As the WWF rightly points out, by excluding nature from this key financial services legislation, the UK will fail to secure opportunities that could make the UK a leading green finance centre, while exposing the country to nature-related risks.
We should also give serious weight to the intervention of Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta, who led the Government’s review of the economics of biodiversity, when he urges the Government to support the amendment. He says:
“We need to empower those in charge of regulating our financial system to support the sector to arrive at a nature-positive destination by recognising the value of natural capital and the significant social and economic benefits restoring nature presents”.
We are losing nature at an alarming rate, and these issues are only going to become more urgent. We have missed opportunities to act in the past, and we cannot continue to make the same mistakes. We therefore urge the Government to think again on these important areas, but if they are not willing to do so, we will support the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Boycott, should they choose to push their amendments to a vote.