The upcoming Glasgow Climate Change Conference will feature presentations from many politicians, experts and consultants, but it is unlikely that perhaps the most important players, those who manage the world's biggest pools of finance, will be especially prominent. Yet what is happening in the financial markets is at least as important in pushing the low-carbon agenda.
The reason is simple: there is money in it. Indeed, it could be argued that creating financial transactions out of climate change offers a way of rescuing the dying post-industrial economies of the developed world.
To understand why, it is important first to make a distinction between growth and consumption – two things that are often confused. Growth, in economic terminology, means an increase in the rate of transactions. Consumption means the using up of resources, many of which are finite. It is perfectly possible to have increased economic growth and lower rates of consumption; it is the very point of the push towards more sustainability. Economic growth created by solar power, for example, would lead to low or negligible consumption of resources because the energy source – the sun – is free.
Some bank reports are indicating that the increase in transactions, or economic activity, entailed in the climate change agenda is massive – as much as $US150 trillion over 30 years. To put that in rough perspective, global GDP is about $US81 trillion and the net wealth of the world is $US418 trillion.