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Purpose on Payday January 2024

ESG Concept
Green & Good (ESG and Impact)
SEC Newgate's View: Shifting Sands – from UAE to Azerbaijan. The climate agenda in 2024.  

2024 will be a bumper year. 2023 ended with warnings that this year could be one in which we breach the Paris Agreement limiting global warming to 1.5C. We have already witnessed the warmest January day in Europe since records began with temperatures in Spain reaching over 30C. The fledgling carbon offset market has been plagued with issues, and new North Sea drilling licenses are set to start pumping imminently.

One would think therefore that this year will be one in which we see the climate emergency increase in the public consciousness and dominate the news and political agenda. Now more than ever, leaders will be needed.

With 49% of the world’s population set to go to the polls this year, it’s the most democratic year in human civilisation. With climate change accepted by many to be the single biggest challenge to human civilisation of all time, you’d have hoped that this year there would be the opportunity to take action on the climate and vote accordingly.

Sadly, it would seem that the green agenda has fallen in peoples’ priorities. Over the last few years, we have seen a significant rise in other issues – first Covid, then the Russian war in Ukraine, then the Israel / Gaza conflict, and, throughout this, a serious cost of living crisis. Green issues are, understandably, not a top priority for all. In a year of elections, the net zero agenda risks failing to resonate with voters as much as it needs to.

You would be forgiven for forgetting that it was about two years ago that COP26 was held here in the UK. True, it was during Covid, but even despite that, it marked a high watermark for climate consciousness in the UK, with an appetite for action on climate seemingly waning ever since. COPs in Egypt and UAE since then also haven’t appeared to move the dial too significantly, bar a positive change on fossil fuels which have seen the beginnings of a commitment to wind down fossil fuel use in energy.

It was almost 20 years ago when the Conservative Party changed its “freedom torch” logo for the oak tree that we are now used to. Seen as a rebranding by the then leader David Cameron to prompt a more modern, progressive and environmentally friendly image, it would be unthinkable that the Conservative Party would today change their logo to something greener. Perhaps the fallen Sycamore Gap tree would be a more fitting logo. 

COP29 in Azerbaijan this year falls during the US elections and also when it’s likely to be the UK elections. It’s looking highly unlikely that there will be many ministers from these two countries (who usually send significant delegations). That provides space for business and finance to step-up to the plate. It’s with them that the success of the climate agenda lies with in 2024, and arguably not with the vast voting electorate.