Political attempts to undermine net zero agenda ‘a big danger’
Concerns have been raised about attempts to row back on the net zero agenda by painting it as a financial burden for businesses.
Net zero secretary Michael Matheson told a fringe event at the SNP conference that the narrative around reducing carbon emissions being too costly was something that had to be resisted at all costs.
Matheson was speaking at a Holyrood event, Financing the Just Transition, in partnership with TheCityUK and the City of London.
He also said the Scottish Government would not hesitate to introduce regulations to prevent companies from greenwashing.
Matheson was joined on the panel by Dame Susan Rice, chair of the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, and Chris Hayward of the City of London.
The Scottish Government minister warned against attempts to undermine the net zero agenda amid reports Prime Minister Liz Truss could be set to water down some of Britain’s climate change commitments.
Last week the UK Government opened a new licensing round for companies to explore for oil and gas in the North Sea – despite concerns about the climate impact.
Matheson said: “The big danger is that if the narrative that net zero is a financial burden starts to take root, we will start to see investors moving away from opportunities to try to support us in tackling that.
“We need to make sure that we set the policy that tackling net zero is an economic opportunity as well as an environmental and nature loss imperative.”
Matheson said a taskforce set up by the Scottish Government to promote green and sustainable financial services had at its core, the mission to grow the financial sector in Scotland.
“Just in case you thought we were part of some sort of anti-growth coalition, we actually want to grow our financial sector here in Scotland,” he told delegates.
Asked whether individuals should be concerned about how their pensions are invested, Rice said that in fields like oil and gas it was important to invest in those companies which do not “have their head in sand” when it comes to the climate emergency.
But Hayward said disinvestment was “not the way forward”.
He said: “Where there are businesses and companies that are not thinking sustainably, don’t disinvest. Stay invested and focus on challenging the directors of those companies…it’s too easy to say that’s not a good company, they’re not doing sustainable things, we’ll wake away.”