Event Summary: Rules vs Principles-based Regulations, what can we learn from different professions?

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Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance hosted an online event on 28th May 2020: Rules vs. Principles-based Regulation: What can we learn from different professions? Below is a summary and recording of each session.

Session 1: Data regulation 

Lizzie Green at UWE introduced the principles-based approach to data governance. She noted that protecting data is easy: just hide it in a big metal box. More difficult is protecting it while simultaneously extracting value from it. A rules-based approach offers clarity and consistency, but it can run into problems: humans are good at finding interpreting ambiguity for their own benefit, sometimes just for the pleasure of getting round a restriction. A principles-based approach gets round this, but it introduces uncertainty which can be hard to manage. One way to do this is to map principles to accreditation procedures, using frameworks such as the Five Safes. 

Felix Ritchie, also of UWE, described experiences of regulation in the UK and Australia. In the UK, this has been an evolutionary model, from a ‘default-closed’ perspective at the start of the century in a context set by a law from 1948, through two pieces of legislation and a shift in attitudes towards a default-open model. In contrast, the Australian federal government took a conscious decision to bring in the default-open principles-based models that had evolved slowly elsewhere. As public perceptions and discussion of data governance in these countries differ substantially, the contrast between the Australian and UK approach will be informative to a great many countries.  

Martin Hickley, Director of Martin Hickley Data Solutions, discussed private sector models of regulation. Focused on the Data Protection Impact Assessment carried out for the Covid-19 tracking app being trialled on the Isle of Wight. He argued that the DPIA is significantly flawed, and appears to have been completed as a check-box exercise rather than understanding the risk-based context. This is one of the problems of rules-based regulation. In contrast the principles-based approach calls for transparency, active scrutiny and debate – which are hard but necessary for robust solutions. 

Finally, Luk Arbuckle, Chief Methodologist of Privacy Analytics, discussed US health data regulation. He demonstrated that the HIPAA guidance includes both rules-based and principles-based regulation. The safe harbour regulations are rules based: comprehensive and easy to follow, but, most importantly, with a catch-all of “actual knowledge”. This brings in flexibility, but can lead to uncertainty; but overall, it means that the safe harbour rules are easily applied. In contrast, the ‘expert determination’ of the level of protection in the data is explicitly principles-based, relying on trained experts to make informed judgements based on “generally accepted statistical and scientific principles”.  In contrasting the two models, he noted that the safe harbour model demonstrates one of the problems of rules-based regulation – that it is more likely to become out of date as it reflects the context in which it was written. 

The ensuing discussion initially focused on the expertise needed in a principles-based environment: how for example do you enforce the principle “drive safely” without training people to understand what this means? More deeply, do we over-estimate the value of principles-based models because we are all ‘experts’ in this field in some way? Finally, how do we make sure that we have enough experts to do principles-based? Rules are very efficient in making sure a lot of people carry out a lot of activity adequately, and perhaps expertise isn’t needed all the time. Moreover, evidence suggests that a basic level of ‘expert knowledge’ can be instilled quite easily, in many different environments. 

A number of participants also suggested that the implementation matters. Some organisations claimed to be principles-based and but are actually rules-based, and there is always an incentive to turn compliance into a tick-box exercise. Perhaps there is a need to accept that encouraging positive behaviour via checkboxes might be a less-worst option than over-estimating people’s willingness to become experts. Understanding the threat environment is key, because all options are a subjective balance of risks. A mix of rules implementing overarching principles may be the preferred outcome. Conceptual frameworks have an important role to play in   developing the context. 

Finally, the discussion considered whether there is a difference between the public and private sector. There do seem to be different incentives (what is important) as well as different disincentives (what punishments are being avoided), and perhaps also a different way of assessing costs and benefits. However, there wasn’t a consensus as to whether this limits the options for public-private co-operative projects. 

Overall, the session concluded that while the principles-based models has many advantages (principally, flexibility in context and application, and efficiency), it does pre-suppose an ability to get agreement on /train individuals in those principles. Moreover, a badly-designed principles-based system doesn’t avoid box-ticking, especially for untrained users. In practice, an element of rules within an overall principles-based approach can offer efficiency gains, whilst not sacrificing the gains from a recognition of principles. Ultimately this is a balance-of-risks decision, and so understanding the risk environment (including human behaviour) is central to a well-designed system. 

WATCH RECORDING OF SESSION 1 HERE

Session 2: Regulation in UK financial markets and accounting 

Paul Keenan, of Keenan Regulatory Consulting and visiting Professor at UWE, introduced the two-pronged approach in UK financial markets. Following on from an initial simple principle (‘My word is my bond’) an extensive rulebook has been developed, leading to the current system of higher-level principles backed up by rules. In practice, he explained, when the regulator takes actions against market participants, they look at rule breaches and whether the interpretation of the rule led to a breach of a principle. Essentially, the regulator considers the firm’s understanding and interpretation of the rules to be in breach of the principles. So even if the rules have been broken the action taken, i.e. the fine imposed, is based on the principles. 

Bryan Foss, Digital Non-Executive Director, Risk & Audit Chair, and also visiting Professor at UWE, reflected on the need for, and implementation of, regulation. He argued that regulators should work with stakeholders to develop effective regulation, and that flexibility to change with circumstances over time is a key point for adequate regulation. Principles are therefore generally better suited by allowing scope for differences, innovation, easier revision or withdrawal. Fundamentally, however, both approaches require transparency, accountability, and stakeholder oversight to make them work. He also noted that there tends to be a lot of social pressure at the moment to increase the rules, and the UK regulator looking to bring in aspects of US rules-based elements, despite practitioners recognising the advantages of principles. 

Florian Meier of UWE discussed the self-regulation and enforcement approach used by UK professional accounting bodies. Members are subject to both professional regulations and principles-based codes of ethics, with the key component being the ethical principles. Self-regulation, however, raises a number of challenges which do cast some doubt on the effectiveness of enforcement. Ismail Adelopo, also of UWE, highlighted how corporate governance exhibits a clear split along a geographical line: The UK uses principles and the US uses rules, each having evolved from their historical contexts over time to each address specific situations and needs. The UK approach relies heavily on investors’ active involvement as a key factor in ensuring compliance and enforcement, but this leads to challenges such as: What if investors don’t play along and simply sell non-compliant firms instead of engaging with them? Who enforces compliance if everybody sells, or the market simply doesn’t care? 

The discussion focused largely on questions surrounding enforcement and effectiveness of approaches. Starting with the area of financial market regulations, the initial debate around appropriateness of fines quickly turned to looking at the broader aspect of penalties: As firms seem to increasingly consider fines as cost of doing business, maybe the focus then should be much more on the personal accountability of individuals? In this context the measure of imposing a ‘stop trading’ order on an individual or firm was brought up. Those can be more important than a simple fine since they may even lead to the closing of a firm or ending a career. Given those potentially severe consequences, robust processes to defend yourself or the firm against the regulator (if the regulator is wrong) are therefore seen as essential.  

Another interesting point brought up was that the market regulator’s approach seems to have shifted over the years from being rather heavy-handed and punitive in the past to a much more constructive approach: They are increasingly working with firms and affected individuals to help them improve and change to become better.  

In the area of corporate governance, the discussion touched upon shortcomings of the current UK approach and brought up ideas for improvement. For instance, it questioned the reliance of UK enforcement on investors and pointed to significant shortcomings. For one, the fact that it is essentially being left to the major shareholders to hold the firms to account or take them to the courts was raised as a concern. Unless in line with the majority, the minority shareholders’ interests get disregarded. They lack the resources to fight for their interests, so what recourse do they have other than either accepting this or selling the shares?  

Another concern of growing future significance was raised about pension funds and them increasingly making big investments in private firms. The corporate governance code does not apply to unlisted firms, and as such firms are not easy to divest from, pension funds are therefore probably even more dependent on good corporate governance. The question then becomes: How effective can those investors’ interests be protected, which are ultimately future pensioners? Further, the issue of what constitutes an appropriate penalty was raised and whether the UK has reached an appropriate balance. Especially as firms are often repeat offenders, doubts were expressed whether this can be solved without having a major overhaul to implement a robust regime. On that note, a suggestion was made to maybe learn from other countries, e.g. Australia, where the regulator has powers in regards to corporate governance and can intervene (unlike the UK). 

WATCH RECORDING OF SESSION 2 HERE

Session 3: Legal perspective and non-financial regulation 

Nicholas Ryder of UWE introduced the area of terrorism financing and the successful UK approach to combat it. He first described the current Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations as fundamentally flawed to deal with terrorism financing, as the legal framework and international banks’ practice (‘soft law recommendations’) target the proceeds of crime, whereas terrorism financing is ‘reverse money laundering’ where no profits are made. By contrast, the more recent UK Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Task Force, a public/private partnership (PPP) with the financial sector, has been quite successful in detecting illegal fund flows and identifying funding patterns. Having been recognised as one of the best international examples of public and private cooperation, other countries have now adopted a similar model. Nicholas suggested that a PPP as opposed to a legal principles-based approach this task force could possibly be the way forward. 

Jaya Chakrabarti, CEO of Semantrica (tiscreport), introduced the TISC report (Transparency In Supply Chains) as a repository for measuring compliance with the UK Modern Slavery Act, along with numerous other financial risk and compliance datasets. She pointed out that, despite the level of compliance required being very low, a lot of companies still don’t provide a statement, and only a fraction of all organisations meet all of the minimum compliance criteria. The frequently observed low quality of data provided by firms poses a challenge to effective reporting. It makes acting on it difficult and thereby enables continued corporate misbehaviour. Further, enforcement seems to be largely non-existent despite potentially severe consequences for non-compliance, thus giving firms no ‘incentive’ to comply. As a way forward, while proper enforcement would be a key pillar for better effectiveness, she also presented some suggestions for modifying corporate behaviour that do not require government regulations and enforcement.  

The discussion mainly centred around enforcement and detection of illegal behaviour. The initial debate on the potential future role of Blockchain applications to certify and trace supply chains to aid transparency quickly turned to the key importance of getting the public sector and the key stakeholders on board to actively pursue enforcement. The public sector was lauded for already actively tracking their suppliers and ensuring compliance, with in particular local governments being very active and frequently working with their suppliers to increase levels of compliance. It was argued that a stumbling block to better enforcement was public bodies’ frequent inaction, even if they have the data, because they don’t know how to deal with it in their enforcement. Further, a general lack of enforcement and disinterest shown by the major stakeholders in various areas of regulation was flagged as a key problem. Using insurers as leverage to enforce better compliance was floated as an idea: that is, refusing professional indemnity insurance for cases of illegal company illegal behaviour, although doubts were also expressed about insurers’ willingness to get involved.  

The discussion then moved on to financial crime and the detection of illegal behaviour. First, the big problem of increasing so-called ‘micro-terrorism’ relying on very simple methods and small amounts which makes identifying individuals and prevent small attacks almost impossible, was pointed out. Regardless of approach (rules or principles), the view was that you can never stop all money laundering or financial crime, comparing it to ‘plugging a hole in a dam with plasticine’. The ‘risk-based approach’, as embodied in international laws and international best practice, to try to identify which businesses are more susceptible to fraud or money laundering, was seen as the best option. On fraud detection, the inability of the current self-reporting nature of verifying compliance with both the slavery act and the bribery act was flagged as a major weakness, with ample evidence from banking regulation showing the approach is not working. Examples from financial services were suggested to introduce accountability as a potential solution to the problem: In some roles, such as money laundering officers, individuals are accountable for self-reporting, so they take it very seriously. Hence non-reporting by the firm puts heavy pressure on that person, which may turn them into ‘whistle-blowers’.  

WATCH RECORDING OF SESSION 3 HERE

Invitation to sit with the Wage & Employment Dynamics (WED) Team

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You’re invited to sit with the Wage & Employment Dynamics (WED) team on
27 July 2020 at 10:30 am – 11:00 am.

The WED project is building new data that will increase our understanding of how people’s wages progress through their career. At the project’s core is the development of a new version of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) dataset, which is being linked to various other official datasets (e.g. Census) for public use. The linked dataset will enable new research on a wide range of wage and employment issues, from labour market entry, through job mobility and career progression to retirement. In this introduction, Professor Felix Ritchie will outline the intended outputs from the project and explain how researchers and analysts will be able to access the resulting data.

Register your interest in attending here.

Business Models for Sustainability The Barriers and Solutions: Workshop

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Tuesday 28th January saw The Future Economy Network take a wintery trip up to University West of England’s Frenchay Campus. The business breakfast workshop was attended by a diverse range of businesses keen to look at their business models through a sustainability lens. The workshop was kindly hosted by the Economics team at UWE. The network supplied sustainable pastries from their own eco-café, Future Leap.

Katherine Piper, Director of The Future Economy Network welcomed attendees, highlighting the benefits of joining the Network and also sharing exciting updates about The Future Economy Network’s Carbon Neutral Hub in Bristol, Future Leap. Katherine also briefly ran through the plans for The Festival of Sustainable Business (check out the video here). We set the groundwork for the workshop by starting with two introductory talks by Ruth Smith, Founder of Sustainable Results Lab, and Peter, Economics professor at UWE.

Ruth set the scene with her history & skills in sustainable business model development, having grown from working as an editor. From her experience, she learned of the continuous battle between a company’s values and the pressure to make profit. Ruth emphasised the importance of values within business planning. She used inspiring quotes from Gary Hanel, Michael Porter and America’s Business Roundtable to explain the triple bottom line theory and modern business’ shift from shareholder to stakeholder value. She mentioned the importance of the new accreditation B-Corp. Learn more about B-Corp at our upcoming event. Many businesses have a 30-40 year timeframe therefore are finally starting to implement the environment as an essential stakeholder. Ruth also mentioned the importance of emerging clean tech. Learn more about Clean Tech at our upcoming event. With her expertise in marketing, Ruth touched on the brilliant tools in the digital and marketing sphere. She did caution however, the need to be aware of the greenhouse gas emissions from digital technologies, which account for 4% of greenhouse gases.

Peter then introduced his workshop by defining the concept of sustainable development by design and introducing the associated toolkit. He discussed the concepts behind sustainable development, business models, and value, emphasising the importance of context and perception changing value. He then discussed the torchlight model in his paper with Glenn Parry and Nicholas O’Regan about developing sustainable business models, and gave an example of the model in practice.

After a quick coffee break, attendees split into 4 groups and worked through their company business models using the torchlight model. After an hour, the teams fed back to the rest of the group on their work.

The event concluded with some 60 second pitches from Garrett Creative, Solar Roofing Specialists & Halcyan Water, and some valuable networking. A huge thank you to the Economics team at UWE for hosting the event and providing refreshments. Without such support we would not be able to do these wonderful inspiring events.

Business Models for Sustainability – A Workshop Collaboration

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The Future Economy Network (FEN) is a Bristol-based organisation born out of a need for sustainable business and better future thinking in response to the climate emergency. And in one of the most creative and environmentally conscious cities in the UK, what better place to meet the growing demand? All over the South West, FEN are seeing more and more active individuals and engaged businesses joining the network to learn about sustainability, meet like-minded others, and increase their sustainable business strength.

In response to the clear need for sustainable business growth, FEN are teaming up with UWE to create an engaging workshop titled “Business Models for Sustainability: The Barriers & Solutions”. There has been a significant growth in purpose before profit; businesses are increasingly seeing their customers demand social responsibility as an integrated part of the offer, not an afterthought or addition. With fantastic initiatives like B-Corp or Science Based Targets, businesses recognise that profit is no longer king, but the future of their growth (and survival) relies on the triple bottom line.

On 28th January, FEN and UWE will co-host a three-hour interactive workshop to better understand your business model. The session will start with two informative, introductory talks and then lead into personalised break out workshops.

What To Expect:

– Tools to develop business models for better understanding;

– Sustainable development and business models;

– Current and future business models.

One of the keynote speakers includes Peter Bradley, a leader in sustainable development at UWE. He is the principal investigator of the ‘Understanding and assessing business models for sustainability’ project, which researches the environmental and economic viability of business models that are intended for sustainable development. Alongside Peter, Ruth Smith from Sustainable Results Lab will be speaking on how Purpose beyond profit is the biggest movement in business right now. Ruth founded the Sustainable Results Lab to bring world class digital marketing to the environmental sector. Both speakers are members of FEN’s sustainability network.

The event will also include the usual elements of FEN’s weekly sustainable events programme that many have come to know and love, such as valuable networking, a friendly and motivational team, exciting 60 second pitches, and professional event delivery.

Grab your ticket here or pop into FEN’s new sustainability hub, Future Leap, to find out more about the diverse range of services available to those wishing to grow on their sustainability journey.

Poetic Economics

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In this video economists Peter Bradley and Sebastian Berger bring together music and economics to explore the meaning and potential of poetic economics. In the first part, Peter Bradley – together with Tom Deblock – perform a song. In the interview that ensued in the second part Peter points out the song’s relevance to his economics while Sebastian answers questions regarding what he calls “poetic economics”. In particular, important aspects of re-rooting economics in poetry, art, and the humanities are discussed. 

Thank you to our wonderful first year film students Didi Valer, Marta Vitiello and Francesco Ianniello for taking the time to produce this video for us.

Find out more about our economics courses at UWE Bristol on our website. Sebastian teaches on our History of Economic thought module, which forms part of the BSc Economics and BA Economics courses, and Peter teaches Sustainable Business.

Further reading

Berger, S. (2019) Can a poetic economy cure evil?: Lessons from the Kapp-Wiechert correspondance. In: Luefter, R., ed. (2019) Wirtliche Oekonomie. Traugott Bautz Verlag. [In Press] Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/31965

Berger, S. (2018) Towards a poetic economics: Studies in Ezra Pound’s Poetry with a Hammer. In: Luefter, R. and Preda, R., eds. (2018) A Companion to Ezra Pound’s Economic Thought. Traugott Bautz Verlag. Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/28459

Berger, S. (2015) Poetic economics and experiential knowledge: How the economist K. William Kapp was inspired by the poet Ernst Wiechert. Journal of Economic Issues, 49 (3). pp. 730-748. ISSN 0021-3624 Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/25141

Bradley, P. (2019) Integrating sustainable development into economics curriculum: A case study analysis and sector wide survey of barriers. Journal of Cleaner Production, 209. pp. 333-352. ISSN 0959-6526 Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/38953

Speakers announced for our Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour conference, 29 April 2019

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We are pleased to announce the following confirmed speakers at our Sustainability Research Cluster’s interdisciplinary one-day conference on “Pro-environmental employee and consumer behaviour” on Monday 29th April 2019. Please see our event page for more details.

The conference is free to attend so please book your place online now.

Dr Peter Bradley (Associate Professor of Economics and leader of the Sustainability Research Cluster at UWE Bristol) Keynote “Motivating energy conservation in organisations: Smart metering and the emergence and diffusion of social norms”.

Iain Mcguffog (Director of Strategy & Regulation, Bristol Water)- “Beyond customer engagement to a hydro social contract.”

Shane Donnellan (Senior Behaviour Change Specialist, Changeworks) Keynote – “Learning to develop as a centre for best practice for behavioural change; lessons from an environmental charity.”

Mandy Gardner (UWE Bristol)- “Values and motivations of social entrepreneurs in bringing about sustainable community production and consumption.”

Bridget Appleby (Founder/CEO, ‘Sustainabubbles’)-“Parties for the Planet- Social Connections and Sustainable Behaviour.”

Dr Ian Smith (Senior lecturer of economics, UWE Bristol) – “What kind of activist are you? Exploring notions of collective action and self-organising amongst climate change activists in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.”

Jes Rutter (CEO, JRP Solutions) Keynote – “Cognitive Energy – supporting the first fuel – UK behaviour change collective action.”   

Dr Jon Mulholland (Associate Professor in Sociology, UWE Bristol)‘How disgraceful it is that you are throwing that away’: Hand-Crafted Motorcycles as Upcycled Waste?  

Alexandra Arntsen (Birmingham City University) – “Work-Life-Environmental Balance: An Agenda for Management Practice.”

Dr Artjoms Ivlevs (Associate Professor of Economics, UWE Bristol)- “Emigration and pro-environmentalism: A long-term, community perspective.”

Dr Mark Everard (Associate Professor of Ecosystem Services, UWE Bristol) Keynote “People, nature and what this means for business.”

Nicola Andreij Rieg (Doctoral Practitioner in Sustainability, University of Surrey)- “Employee behaviour and Energy Use at the University of Surrey.”

Dr Svetlana Cicmil (Director of Doctoral Research, UWE Bristol)- Title to be confirmed

Alan Bailey (Director of The Future Economy Group Ltd)- Title to be confirmed

If you have any queries about the conference please do get in touch at bcef@uwe.ac.uk or tweet us @Bristolecfin

Autonomy launch new policy report on a shorter working week

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BCEF member Dr Danielle Guizzo Archela is an associate researcher of Autonomy, an independent, progressive think tank which aims to address the uncertainty of work in the modern era.

Autonomy is comprised from a multidisciplinary array of researchers and experts in political economy and critical theory. On Friday 1st February 2019 Autonomy launched a new policy report on a shorter working week. “The shorter working week: a radical and pragmatic proposal” outlines the case for a shorter working week and shows that there is no positive correlation between productivity and the amount of hours worked per day. The report has received praise from a number of politicians and academics.

“This is a vital contribution to the growing debate around free time and reducing the working week. With millions saying they would like to work shorter hours, and millions of others without a job or wanting more hours, it’s essential that we consider how we address the problems in the labour market as well as preparing for the future challenges of automation.” John McDonnell, Labour Shadow Chancellor

Our conventional working week and the idea of a compromising work-life balance in the UK has been debated in the media for some time. Last year in New Zealand a landmark trial of a four-day working week concluded it an unmitigated success and the discussion on how a four-day work week could be implemented long-term was opened up.

The Autonomy report has already been making headlines, and the idea of working “part-time” being standard, rather than just an option for those who can afford it, has been very popular. Below are just a few of the recent articles on the report.

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/economy/2019/02/how-idea-four-day-week-went-mainstream
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/01/bring-on-the-four-day-working-week-for-teachers
https://metro.co.uk/2019/02/01/boss-needs-know-productive-shorter-working-week-8423713/
https://www.redpepper.org.uk/less-work-more-play-a-solution-to-britains-economic-woes/

Autonomy have also produced a short YouTube video to accompany the report launch.

The Shorter Working Week launch video

Please see the Autonomy website to read more and to download the full report.

Beyond pay gaps: Inequality at work

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By the researchers of the “Earnings gaps and inequality at work” project, Bristol Business School.

On 25 May 2018, UWE Economics hosted an expert workshop on ‘Beyond Pay Gaps: Inequality at Work’. Six experts were invited to share their reflections, based on their own research, on two questions:

1) What is the nature of inequality at work?

2) Is the pay gap an adequate indicator? If not, how can we improve our assessments of inequality at work?

The key aim was to foster a discussion on how to conceptualise and study inequality at work. In an earlier blog entry the workshop organisers’ provided a response to UWE’s reporting on the gender pay gap, which highlighted the fact that some progression on the gender pay gap is not in itself a sign of overall success. There are aspects of inequality at work that are captured by pay indicators and nonetheless merit our attention.

The morning session of the workshop focused on conceptualisations of inequality at work and featured the presentations of three distinguished scholars of labour and inequality. Dr Alessandra Mezzadri (SOAS University of London) drew on her long-standing research on the garment industry in India to highlight patterns of inequality and gender exploitation. Professor Bridget O’Laughlin (Institute of Social Studies) reflected on the concepts of Marx’s political economy framework as well as its conceptual gaps to study inequality at work. Professor Harriet Bradley (UWE Bristol) illustrated how a three-part conceptual framework based on production, reproduction and consumption can be used to conceptualise gender inequality at work.

In the afternoon session, three distinguished academics on gender, organisation and inequality presented on methodological approaches to study inequality at work. Dr Hannah Bargawi (SOAS University of London) discussed how a pyramid-shaped understanding of inequality at work can guide us through moving our focus between different levels of inequality. Dr Olivier Ratle (UWE Bristol) presented the qualitative methods used to study early career academics’ experience of work. Dr Vanda Papafilippou (UWE Bristol) described a range of methods from the field of sociology of education to study the workplace.

The presentations generated rich discussions on the conceptualisations of social reproduction, the complexity of inequality and the relations between the material and the cultural. The participants agreed that research on these themes is both timely and needed. Furthermore, a podcast series on ‘Feminism, Gender and the Economy’ featuring two interviews with workshop speakers will be launched in 2018/2019 academic year. Watch this space for the upcoming podcast series!

This workshop was funded by UWE Bristol. The workshop’s organisers are grateful to all participants for their thoughtful contributions and productive discussions.

What does climate change have to do with finance?

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By Yannis Dafermos (UWE Bristol) and Maria Nikolaidi (University of Greenwich)

 

It is now widely accepted that unless we take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will damage our economies and societies in the next decades. But will global warming also affect the stability of the financial system?

Recent research suggests that this is a very likely outcome. For example, climate-related events, such as hurricanes, floods and typhoons, might destroy the property of households and the capital of firms, leading to a systemic rise in debt defaults. These defaults could impair the balance sheets of banks, with wider implications for the stability of the financial system. At the same time, the prices of stocks and bonds issued by companies facing climate-related losses might face declining demand by investors and might be destabilised.

But things can be even worse. If at some point in time climate policies are implemented abruptly or technology leads to a sudden shift to renewables, financial investors’ confidence in the future profitability of carbon-related sectors might be undermined. This could lead to a substantial re-valuation of the financial assets of these sectors, making them more vulnerable to defaults.

However, climate-related financial risks are not the only way through which finance and climate change are linked. There is now a lively debate about the way that central banks, commercial banks and financial markets could contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy. Suggestions include the implementation of a green quantitative easing programme, the modification in the capital requirements of banks based on the extent to which they finance green investments and the establishment of climate-related financial disclosures. And although these potential interventions should not be viewed as substitutes for government climate policies, they might have a potentially valuable role to play in the fight against climate change.

In a workshop that we are organising at the University of Greenwich on 23 May, we will be discussing all these issues. The speakers of the event include Etienne Espagne (AFD), Rob Macquarie (Positive Money), Sini Matikainen (LSE), Hector Pollitt (Cambridge Econometrics) and ourselves. The event will be chaired by Charlotte Billingham (FEPS).

Please join us if you wish to learn more about the links between climate change and finance. Registrations can be done here.