So imagine if you will that you’re a small energy company. You’re thinking about building a wind farm, say, off the coast of Yorkshire. Problem is, you’re struggling to find investors to finance the project. Every time you talk to venture capital companies, private equity firms or other financiers, you get the same response. They’re worried about the risk – specifically, the risk of politicians lacking (how to put it?) lead in their pencil.
What, the investors ask you, happens if policy failure means that fossil prices stay low, so your wind farm can’t compete? Or, for that matter, if prices for emissions permits stay at rock bottom because government caves in to lobbying on permit allocation? What happens if the government simply misses all of its climate targets?
So maybe the investors agree to finance your project, but at punishing rates of interest. Or maybe they decide not to finance it at all. Either way, your energy firm and the government are stuck together in a vicious circle of self-fulfilling prophecy. The government can’t deliver its climatepolicy targets unless people like you build things like wind farms. But you can’t access capital at reasonable rates unless the investors are convinced that there’s a real future for what you want to build – and they figure that the government’s record of fudges kind of speaks for itself.
This is the kind of dilemma that David and talked about in our report on institutional architecture for climate change, where we argued that a key requirements for moving forward on climate policy was clearer signals from the future – whereby everyone believes that the low carbon economy is actually going to happen, and consequently acts in ways that deliver exactly that outcome.
Well, Michael Mainelli – a good friend of ours whom we worked with on the London Accord, which brought together a raft of investment banks in a collaborative research project on climate change – has come up with a delicious proposal that would in effect amount to just such a signal from the future. You’ll like this.