22 November 2022

Applying science and finance to stop climate change

Organised by:

SCI's London Group and UCL Chemical & Physical Society

University College London, Chemistry Department

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In 1997 at COP3 in Tokyo, the world agreed to use carbon pricing as the principal financial mechanism to avert climate change.  According to the Economist, by the end of 2021 more than 21% of the world’s emissions were covered by some form of carbon pricing, up from 15% in 2020, with some 64 countries either having a carbon tax and/or an emissions trading system.  A quarter of a century later, the COP3 agreement is making a difference.  Yet, if you were to listen to the financial services industry itself, most recently at COP26 in Glasgow, the world will be saved by tracking environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indicators, with scarcely a mention of full carbon trading.  How can it be that the financial services industry isn’t promoting a market-based solution?

Organisations are looking at how to score well in the ESG rankings but is ESG a driver for change?  It is likely that ESG has a place in a number of areas, but one of them might not be emissions.  Professor Michael Mainelli questions the use of ESG in reducing emissions and will use this session to explore ETS history, assess its promise, and probe its relevance to the City. He argues that financial services role is to bind with markets to  help people make better decisions, trillions of small economic decisions on sustainability. Decisions based on hard financial transactions will aid market enforcement and supply chain tracking.  He observes that traditional market drivers could be applied, e.g. competition, open data, better regulation, and voluntary standards markets.

In order to better unite financial markets and government policies, since 2005 he and his firm, Z/Yen, the City of London’s leading commercial think-tank, have successfully promoted the use of a complementary financial instrument, policy performance bonds (aka sustain for climate change purposes as sustainability-linked bonds). The policy performance bond market rose to US$110bn in 2021, and this year saw the first issuance of a sovereign bond, Chile’s US$2bn sustainability-linked bond in March 2022.  Michael recommends that financial services should lobby for costed carbon and financial cuffs on government policy (policy performance bonds). The implication for financial services is a shift from lipstick on financial institutions to the straightforward incorporation of emissions costs in everyday decision-making across the economy, not just for investment analysts.


Professor Michael Mainelli MStJ FCCA FCSI(Hon) FBCS, Executive Chairman, Z/Yen Group
Michael is a qualified accountant, securities professional, computer specialist, and management consultant, educated at Harvard University and Trinity College Dublin. He gained his PhD at the London School of Economics where he was also Visiting Professor of Innovation & IT.  Originally a research scientist in aerospace (rocket science) and computing (architecture & cartography), after directing the Geodat & Mundocart projects in Switzerland he became a senior partner with accountants BDO Binder Hamlyn directing global consulting, and Corporate Development Director for Europe’s largest R&D firm, then the Ministry of Defence’s 14,000 strong Defence Evaluation & Research Agency.
During a mergers & acquisitions spell in merchant banking with Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, he co-founded Z/Yen, the City of London’s leading think-tank, promoting societal advance through better finance and technology. Z/Yen is renowned for its Global Financial, Green Finance, and Smart Centres indices.
Michael is Senior Independent Director of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service and non-executive Director of a listed mining firm, Fellow of Goodenough College, Honorary Fellow of King’s College London, and a Visiting Professor at UCL’s Bartlett School.
His book The Price Of Fish: A New Approach To Wicked Economics And Better Decisions, won the Independent Publisher Book Awards Finance, Investment & Economics Gold Prize.  He is active in ten livery companies, past Master of the World Traders, an Alderman of the City of London, and late Sheriff of the City of London 2019-2021, with charity interests in the environment, education, and care.

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Arrival from 6pm, lecture starts 6.15pm

Venue and Contact

UCL Chemistry Department

Sir Christopher Ingold Building
20 Gordon Street

Julian Perfect

Email: julianperfect@hotmail.com


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