So in concrete terms, how can finance act in favour of the climate?
There is already a range of financial products (stocks or bonds) with a positive impact on the climate, and of course many activities that should benefit from credit facilities: resilient agriculture, insulation in buildings, decarbonised transport... But the main challenge is to signal climate-friendly activities through taxonomy and labelling, while allowing the future economic viability of the activities concerned to be assessed. These two tasks are immense.
And the financial markets follow?
There is a huge amount of savings available for the transition which, for reasons of return, still finance the carbon economy. But the extra-financial environmental and social dimensions are raising the awareness of a significant fringe of investors, in anticipation of regulations or out of conviction. Central banks also seem to have an important, but still uncertain, role in climate action, through regulation and their action on the banking sector.
How do you determine whether an asset is green or not? It is easy to greenwash...
Without a rigorous taxonomy and international standards that define "green" business sectors, greenwashing is always suspect. This is one of the levers for public action in finance, as the European Commission recently showed. Conflicting views on these 'green' sectors make the task complex: the antagonistic positions of France and Germany with regard to nuclear power are the archetype. There is also a poorly assumed asymmetry: institutional investors and banks are pro-active in their green investments, but divestment from brownfields (coal, oil) is done reluctantly, as the high return is still there.
Isn't it utopian to want to reconcile finance and ecology?
I'm not saying that the banks are going to shoot themselves in the foot out of ecological concern, but their best interests cannot be based on a purely virtual economy. Economic viability is not logically incompatible with ecological sustainability, there is a ridge to be found. After that, climate change implies a change of logic that cannot be achieved solely in finance, but one thing is certain, given the importance of the sector, it cannot be done without them. There is a long-term ideal behind all this: to put finance back in its place, i.e. at the service of society and not at the service of itself. The success of the DU with students proves to us that the idea is germinating among the younger generations.