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City in frontline of Brexit and climate change, says Lord Mayor

As Brexit negotiations continue, the City must not lose sight of the bigger picture of climate change and focus on its leadership in green finance, urges Lord Mayor William Russell.

The Rt. Hon. Lord Mayor William Russell

March 2020

Three and a half years after the 2016 referendum, the UK finally left the EU on 31 January. I don’t need to remind readers that Brexit is anything but ‘done’, to use the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In fact, it is only ‘half time’ in the negotiation process. Many more twists and turns lie ahead.

The UK government has set a deadline of December 2020 for new arrangements to be in place. This is a hugely ambitious deadline and will be a challenge to achieve.

After all, the negotiations over our future trading relationship with the EU will be intricate and complex, and it is critical that the services sector, which makes up around 80% of the UK economy, is not sacrificed in the rush to get a deal.

It is also important that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture. Brexit has been top of the agenda for many City firms in recent years, but the issue of climate change could disrupt business models even more significantly in coming decades.

In the words of the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, the transition to a carbon-neutral economy poses an existential challenge, and it is one we must urgently work together to meet.

This City is at the frontline of this effort. We are world leaders in green finance and efforts to accurately price climate-related risks and opportunities.

The City of London Corporation has now held three green finance summits at Guildhall, bringing together thousands of experts and industry professionals from across the world to discuss the development of the sector and the role that the UK can play. We also look forward to playing an active role in London Climate Action Week, from 27 June to 5 July.

We continue to work with the UK government to tailor policy that can help businesses transition to a green financial system, which will in turn help to mobilise investment in clean and resilient growth.

Last year we decided to go further still. Together with government, we launched the Green Finance Institute, an independent organisation sitting at the nexus of the public and private sectors, with ambitions to mobilise capital to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon and climate-resilient economy, both domestically and internationally. Through this work we are actively ensuring that the City remains ahead of the climate change curve for the benefit of London and the UK.

As we get ready for COP26 later this year in Glasgow, perhaps the time is right to ask what more all of us can do, as organisations, businesses, or indeed as Lord Mayors, to battle climate change.

William Russell is Lord Mayor of the City of London

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