Investors need to get to grips with the transition to the low-carbon economy. This is not a message from the UN’s climate change department, a government energy minister, or climate change campaigner.
No, the latest warning comes from high-ranking financial experts based in the heart of the City of London. Kevin Bourne, managing director of database services at FTSE Russell, believes we are entering the world economy’s sixth major industrial cycle: the transition to a low-carbon economy.
The theory – first set out by economist Carlota Perez at the London School of Economics – suggests the low-carbon industrial transition should be classified as the next major industrial cycle, following in the footsteps of the British industrial revolution; the age of steam and railways; the age of steel, electricity and heavy engineering; the age of oil, automation and mass production; and the age of information and telecommunication.
This will come as no surprise to many working in the green economy. The Paris Agreement, reached in December 2015, saw 197 countries commit to a zero-carbon economy by the end of the century, and pledge billions of dollars in low-carbon investment. Clean energy investment is now outstripping investment in fossil fuels by a factor of two to one, while companies around the world are increasingly recognising the need to green their activities to boost their bottom lines.
But the trouble is, although there is widespread anecdotal evidence for this transition, until recently it was almost impossible to quantify the shift in statistical terms – and investors work using numbers. Nowhere has charted the rise of the green economy across its subsectors, across large and small companies, across multiple revenue streams, Bourne says, speaking to reporters at a briefing in London last week. “So we have this large anecdotal structural change taking place in industrial output,” he explained. “But no one has any data.”