Clean Energy: The Force that Politics Cannot Constrain

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At COP22, Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, explains that President-elect Trump is powerless to stop the global transition to renewable energy

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DIMITRI LASCARIS, TRNN: This is Dimitri Lascaris from Marrakech, Morocco from COP22.

I’m here today with Anthony Hobley, the CEO of the Carbon Tracker Institute. Thank you very much for joining us.

ANTHONY HOBLEY: Thank you. Carbon Tracker Initiative. But yes.

LASCARIS: My apologies. So perhaps if you just for the sake of our audience, give us a little review of the mandate of the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

HOBLEY: Yea we’re a not for profit think tank. We are philanthropically funded.

What I think is quite interesting and unique about Carbon Tracker is we’re all former financial market professionals. So, I’m a former corporate lawyer and global law firm. Found as a global asset manager for organizations like Jupiter and Henderson and City of London. I guess the engine room of Carbon Tracker is 8 former investor bank analysts who are ex HSBC city Deutsche Bank, Barclays, etc. So, we do investment grade financial analysis on climate risks and what that means for financial markets. In particularly the risks of the low carbon transition. So, we do the numbers.

LASCARIS: So last year I had an opportunity to interview you at COP21 and when it was over there was some rather I would say skeptical assessments of what had been achieved from environmental organizations and NGOs, heads of state, in particularly the largest emitters, championed the agreement in part on the basis that it was going to send powerful signals to the market to private enterprise that the transition away from a fossil fuels economy had truly begun and therefore investments in alternative energy sources, renewable energy sources, efficiency, would be a wise prudent and probable thing to do.

So, the question I have for you now obviously we’re taking into account that the year is not time to assess our progress but do you think that we’ve seen real signs that that promise is being achieved? Realized? If so, what are the principle indicators of that?

HOBLEY: Well I think we are and I think that the fact that we are is one of the reasons we got the Paris Agreement. I think that I mentioned to you last year that the big difference between Copenhagen in 2009 which as we know didn’t result in a treaty and Paris is that the technology that’s going to deliver the low carbon head reach to a degree of maturity and the cost had drops efficiently that world leaders can see how they were going to deliver the commitments made in Paris. Our numbers driven analysis tells us that we are in a technology driven low carbon transition. So, it’s no longer a case of if but it is a case of when. That’s where Paris and the signal that sends and international meetings like we’re having currently in Marrakech are important because they’re about creating the policy framework that’s speeds that technology transition that’s already underway sufficient that it delivers a stable climate, keeps us within the 2 degrees carbon budget.

LASCARIS: Perhaps could you give us some examples concretely of that recognition within the marketplace that that transition is occurring over the course of the past year?

HOBLEY: Well I think the speeches made by the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, the whole process he kicked off in Paris with the Financial Stability Board Climate Task Force and the work that the financial markets are doing for that task force led by Michael Bloomberg to develop a sort of criteria for business and the financial markets to disclose climate risks. The seriousness with which business and the financial institutions are taking that whole process. Because they understand they need much greater transparency on that risk so that they can take the right decisions.

LASCARIS: Now we all know that, in the United States government, the elector, the electoral process and the election that was recently held, seems to be shifting in another way at least in a major emitter of the United States. After Donald Trump’s victory in that election one of the signs that we’re moving away from that transition was that the fossil fuels stalks surged in the market place. How do you think and recognize and it’s very difficult to predict this stage is exactly how all this is going to play out but how do you think the election of somebody who can fairly be characterized as a climate change denialist to one of the major emitters and possibly the pull-out from the Paris Accord by that country is going affect that market’s behavior in the years ahead?

HOBLEY: Well clearly on the one hand it creates more policy uncertainty. That actually increases the risk for investors and shareholders and I think is a big reason why they take this even more seriously because as I said, this transition is going to happen. But I think the policy uncertainty that a Trump led administration could bring increases the volatility of that transition. It increased the risk that instead of a smooth transition that we can all plan for and manage, we will get a more disruptive and choreatic transition and that’s not good for shareholders. That’s not good for the financial markets as we’ve see with recent history.

But I think the other point to this, coming back to what I said, we are in a technology led transition. Trump led administration is no more going to be able to stop that than a US president could’ve stopped the transition from the steam locomotive to the automobile, the typewriter to the postal computer, from the fixed line telephone system to the mobile telephone. It’s about the money. I think clearly what our analysis demonstrates is that clean growth pays. Clean growth generates jobs. Clean growth is going to generate new businesses. Clean growth is good for economies. I think at the end of the day, Donald Trump, President Trump elect, he’s a businessman and he understands rational business decisions and he understands profit. I think what we’re increasingly seeing is that clean technologies are becoming the choice of profit. The profitable choice if you like.

LASCARIS: This has been characterized as the COP of action or at least that was the ambition. We’re now about 2 days away form the conclusion of this particular COP. What signs have you seen or major developments you’ve seen in terms of implementing the provisions of COP21 here in Marrakech?

HOBLEY: Well I – the jury still laugh and we’ll se the final sort of , we will get a lot more transparency on Friday, Saturday as we always do at these international negotiations. In the area that we’re following most closely around scaling up, climate finance and the whole area around financial disclosures. I think we’ve seen a lot of workers going into preparing the this COP and during this COP to provide a sort of climate finance roadmap, a very concrete roadmap on how we’re going to mobilize the hundred billion.

I’m chair and a number of us from the private sector backgrounds are chairing a high level ministerial dialogue softening with many finance ministers on how we one scale up climate finance but also use that hundred billion a year the governments are going to mobilize to leverage at least 10 times as much private sector finance. And to de-risk the investments even more than they already are. So I think that for me is incredibly exciting. It’s incredibly exciting for me that the public sector through the ministers and the governors are engaged now in this way with the private sector and private sector finance. So I think that demonstrates the pragmatism of this process and that is a pragmatism that is going to be critical in a world where we have a President Trump.

LASCARIS: Well tank you very much for joining us today Anthony. This is Dimitri Lascaris for the Real News from Marrakech, Morocco.

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