As of 2023, the financial system is woefully misaligned with the world’s climate goals. Six times the current annual level of investment in non-fossil fuel investments is needed between 2023 and 2030 to stay on a 1.5ºC warming pathway. The ratio of clean-energy lending and equity underwriting by banks relative to fossil fuels needs to reach 4 to 1 by 2030, whereas for 1,142 assessed banks, the ratio was between 0.8 and 1 at the end of 2021.
As providers, underwriters, and fiduciaries of trillions of dollars of capital flows annually, financial institutions (FIs) play a critical role in decarbonizing the economy and scaling access to clean, affordable energy. Optimally, the roles and opportunities for the financial sector should be guided by an official pathway and associated policy tools, such as carbon pricing, public finance and guarantees, strategic subsidies, sectoral regulations, and so on. Unfortunately, that policy framework to shape and guide the financial sector does not yet exist.
In the absence of strong government leadership, there has been a proliferation of bottomup models, tools, metrics, methodologies, and initiatives designed to measure and evaluate the climate performance of financial institutions. While the rapid growth of these initiatives demonstrates the financial sector’s engagement, meaningful progress in realigning global finance to support climate goals has been limited. These frameworks and tools often overstate or misrepresent the extent to which they support meaningful action toward achieving climate goals, and at times rely on misaligned targets or metrics that undermine their effectiveness as tools for setting or assessing corporate commitments. Overall, existing commitments and strategies are not sufficiently aligned with the actions needed from financial sector actors to achieve climate goals.
There are deep and inherent limitations to bottom-up approaches to achieving decarbonization, some that are within the capability of financial institutions to address but many that are beyond their remit. This report focuses on the things the financial sector can and should do even in the absence of a robust long-term policy framework.
Lisa E. Sachs, Nora Mardirossian & Perrine Toledano,
Finance for Zero: Redefining Financial-Sector Action to Achieve Global Climate Goals,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/sustainable_investment/15