Examination of Witnesses

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:11 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Jesse Griffiths:

Yes. I think it is another extremely important question, and it is an extremely important way to think about the impact of regulation, as being about what kind of incentives it places on different actors to behave differently.

With regard to climate, there are three key points. One is about disclosure: that is why, for example, we made the recommendation on the PRIIPs point that the key information document should have better disclosure on environmental and social governance issues. That creates an incentive between the sellers of those products and the investors buying them, and we know there is strong demand in the investment industry to know much more about those issues and try to redirect their investment towards greener ends. That is important. Disclosure is obviously also important in terms of civil society and the public understanding what different institutions are doing, and also the Government.

The second point on incentives is the point that Fran has made, which I would fully support. Finding ways to disincentivise or penalise fossil fuel investments in particular is extremely important. The scientific research shows us that if we exploit only those oil and gas reserves that are already being exploited, we will still go above the dangerous 1.5° threshold, without even taking coal into account. There really is not any room for further investment in fossil fuels, so it would be an important signal to think about how we fundamentally disincentivise that by introducing penalties for that within the capital requirements of organisations.

The third point is that this is a newish area for regulators. Although we have been thinking about it for a long time and many regulators have been discussing it, it is not like all the answers are known. We had a report a couple of years ago called “The Regulatory Compass”, which explored what it would look like if regulators put a social and environmental purpose at the heart of what they do. There is a lot to do, and a lot of thinking to do there. The first step is, through Bills such as this, giving regulators the responsibility to think about that. I think that is extremely important.

Those are the three main things. The fourth incentive point is that regulation does not solve everything, as Fran said. It is important not to try to solve all problems through this lens, but to think about all the other things that we should be doing—investing in the green future and so on—if we are to solve the climate crisis.