Earth Day: Reclaiming The Climate Conversation
This year’s Earth Day calls on all of us – people, governments, institutions, businesses – to #InvestInOurPlanet and push aside the barriers to progress that have been constructed by the fossil fuel industry. The need to create a 21st-century economy that brings back the health of our planet has never been so urgent, and yet efforts in this direction continue to be hindered by the dominance of oil, gas and coal companies over the net-zero narrative.
Fossil fuels’ dirty fight
EARTHDAY.ORG point to the fossil fuel industry as a leading culprit in efforts to obstruct climate legislation. Wielding huge influence, those with a stake in the extraction of oil, gas and coal are continuing to divert meaningful action on the climate crisis through their intrusion into conversations around climate policy.
Last year’s COP26, which was intended as an opportunity for unified climate action, became host to over 500 lobbyists affiliated with some of the world’s biggest oil and gas polluters. Global Witness reported that the fossil fuel lobby at the conference was larger than the combined total of delegates from the eight countries that have been worst affected by climate change over the last two decades.
Since COP26, the UK government has given the green light for more fossil fuel extraction. Earlier this month, the energy security strategy revealed that licenses to explore new oil and gas fields in the North Sea will be expediated, and that existing production will be increased. At the same time, the strategy offered little in the way of support for homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes – an essential piece of the puzzle in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and our overall energy demand.
The move has drawn criticism that our government is undermining its own net-zero obligations and ignoring the latest warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that any new fossil fuel exploration will take the world beyond a 1.5C temperature increase.
The role of finance
The lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry flows from some of the world’s largest financial institutions. Many banks are toeing the line when it comes to their public net-zero commitments. However, behind the scenes, these same institutions are lobbying to weaken policies designed to boost transparency around financing environmentally harmful activities and are continuing to fund fossil fuel projects. An investigation of the world’s 30 largest financial institutions has found that, together, they enabled at least $740 billion in financing for fossil fuel production in 2020 and 2021 (7% of their total primary financing for that period).
There are moves to make financial institutions more accountable through requirements to report their environmental impact. But whether this reporting amounts to much beyond a tick box exercise for institutions that remain fundamentally disengaged with the reality that we face, remains to be seen. What is certain is that, as we all become more aware of the responsibility that finance has for investing in the health of our planet, tolerance for financial institutions’ inertia on climate change will come to be increasingly short in supply.
Act now: three things you can do this Earth Day
- Spring clean your finances. If you’ve got money with a bank that might be investing in fossil fuels or other destructive practices, move it. Check out Good With Money’s top eight ethical savings accounts for 2022. Subscribers to Ethical Consumer can also find sustainability ratings for over 50 savings accounts here.
- Give thought to your home energy use. Pressure on household budgets is affecting many of us, particularly as the cost of living continues to rise. It can be easy to dismiss the impact of small changes but doing free or low-cost things like stopping draughts around windows, switching to energy efficient appliances, unplugging chargers, and insulating your loft can add up to noticeable reductions in energy use and bills. If you’re able to, putting money aside for a longer-term investment like a heat pump is another way you can reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels.
- Connect with others and rekindle your inspiration. Earth Day offers a chance for us to come together to share our hopes for the future and celebrate the abundant gifts of our planet. You can join the conversation on social media using the #InvestInOurPlanet hashtag. There are events taking place across the UK – from workshops and webinars to festival-style gatherings; check the map to find out if there’s one near you.
Earth Day first began in 1970 and is organised by EARTHDAY.ORG. This year’s event takes place on Friday 22 April. Find out more at earthday.org/earth-day-2022.
To see our range of ethical savings accounts, click here.
Published: 22 April 2022
Author: Jennifer Whiteside