On Wednesday evening, I was delighted to welcome Mark Carney to Chartered Accountants’ Hall. I believe it is the first time, in recent years, that we have hosted a Bank of England Governor here in Moorgate, and it is fitting that it was to discuss one of the most important topics the profession will face in our – or any – generation; the safety of the planet itself.
The event was the launch of the Accounting for Sustainability Summit, and saw 250 international leaders from business and public life gathered to discuss the role that the accountancy and finance profession will play in safeguarding the future of our environment. ICAEW has supported A4S since its inception, as a founder member.
The world we live in today is increasingly turbulent. Governor Carney has frequently highlighted in the past how climate change, as well as geo-political, economic and policy uncertainty, will affect economic performance and how markets can be made to work to the benefit of all.
Mr Carney has since said: 'An obstacle to a smooth adjustment to a low carbon future has been the absence of information to help make a market in climate-related financial risk. This magnifies the financial stability risks associated with a potentially sudden reassessment of climate-related risks.
'So I was pleased to join the experts gathered at the Accounting for Sustainability Summit to talk about the work of the private-sector Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures. The Task Force, convened by the Financial Stability Board and chaired by Michael Bloomberg, is due to issue disclosure recommendations for public consultation by year-end.
'At the Summit, we also discussed how, with better information as a foundation, there was opportunity to facilitate the growth of a cross-border green bond market, which could finance a low carbon transition while raising global investment and spurring growth.'
The next day the Summit continued at the Palace of St James, where His Royal Highness the Prince Of Wales talked about the fact that 'the risks we face are interconnected and we are not going to be able to shut ourselves away from these consequences.' Few people have done more to bring to the fore at the highest levels the dangers we face if we do not act. I was pleased that His Highness praised the accounting and finance community for being open to change and understanding that innovation towards sustainability is key for prosperity.
ICAEW has committed to embed the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development at the heart of our new vision – A World Of Strong Economies. As I said in my speech, they are not achievable by doing what we do now but better. Instead we will have to change (quite radically) the way we operate – our economies, our lives and how we do business. This is not going to be easy and creates huge uncertainty but the cost of inaction can no longer be ignored.
I believe our profession has a central leadership role in guiding businesses through the uncertainty, managing risk and innovating. The chartered accountancy profession began as a way to underpin trust and confidence in an uncertain world. Then the risks were seen as financial. Now they are nothing more than the future of our world. We must prove equal to that task.