Mark Carney has provided backing for Greta Thunberg in her clash with Donald Trump, contrasting the contribution the teenage activist has made towards tackling the climate emergency with the White House’s less helpful approach.
Speaking at an event hosted by Bloomberg in Davos, Carney said Thunberg was correct to point out that the world was rapidly using up its remaining carbon budget and that the US stance made tackling global heating more difficult.
The Bank of England governor’s intervention followed Trump’s warning to the World Economic Forum of the dangers of listening to “prophets of doom” and Thunberg’s insistence that the US president needed to listen to the science on global heating.
Asked whether forging a common understanding was more difficult without the US’s involvement, Carney said: “It is certainly more difficult.”
Carney said Thunberg was right to point out that climate science showed that the world had only eight years of emitting carbon at its current rate if there is to be a 67% chance of limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5 degrees. “That’s a legitimate point to make,” he said. “There have been many positive contributions from Greta Thunberg.”
Davos is a Swiss ski resort now more famous for hosting the annual four-day conference for the World Economic Forum. For participants it is a festival of networking. Getting an invitation is a sign you have made it – and the elaborate system of badges reveals your place in the Davos hierarchy. The meeting is sponsored by a huge number of international banks and corporations.
For critics, “Davos man” is shorthand for the globe-trotting elite, disconnected from their home countries after spending too much time in the club-class lounge. Others just wonder if it is all a big waste of time.
The 2020 meeting is being advertised as focusing on seven themes: Fairer economies, better business, healthy futures, future of work, tech for good, beyond geopolitics and how to save the planet. Young climate activists and school strikers from around the world will be present at the event to put pressure on world leaders over that last theme.
However, the Bank of England governor added that some of the leading thinking on climate crisis was coming from the US financial sector and tech companies. Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former top climate change negotiator, said at the same meeting that despite Trump’s attitude, there was still a chance the US would meet its carbon reduction targets because of initiatives at local and state level.
Carney has been made Boris Johnson’s special adviser for the crucial COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November – an event as big in scale as the annual WEF event in Davos.
He tells his audience that Johnson understood the challenge but that success in Glasgow was about mobilising private finance as well as action by governments.
“The prime minister is very focused on this. The full weight of the government will be engaged with it.”
Carney said public opinion had shifted on the climate crisis, while banks and the finance sector more generally were now aware of the risks and opportunities involved.
“There will be companies who will be out in front and those who lag behind,” Carney said. “It is not simply a question of green good, everything else bad. There are 50 shades of green, if not more.”