SOAS University of London

Department of Economics

Harnessing Finance in an Age of Environmental Breakdown: Rethinking the Role of Financial Authorities

Katie Kedward (UCL)

Date: 13 January 2021Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 13 January 2021Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Webinar

Speaker: Katie Kedward (UCL)

Discussant: Gregor Semieniuk (UMass Amhurst; SOAS)

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Harnessing Finance in an Age of Environmental Breakdown: Rethinking the Role of Financial Authorities

Mainstream perspectives characterise environmental problems as ‘negative externalities’ arising from a lack of environmental information in market prices. This paradigm is pervasive within the fast-growing green finance movement, which aims to improve the sustainability of financial flows by ‘internalising’ hidden environmental costs, benefits, and risks using disclosure and quantitative modelling frameworks, and new financial instruments. Despite recognising the financial implications of environmental breakdown, central banks and financial supervisors have so far promoted this ‘markets-led’ approach, relying that financial markets will be able to efficiently self-adjust and reallocate capital flows once risks are priced in. Drawing from IIPP research, this talk will outline the problems inherent in this paradigm. On the one hand, financial markets may fail to sufficiently manage environmental risk, which is by nature radically uncertain, systemic, and endogenous. On the other hand, the sustainability credentials of new ‘eco’ financial instruments are highly contested and raise broader political economy questions about the structural power of private finance in sustainable development. This talk explores how much greater discretionary intervention by financial authorities may be needed to manage both the risks and impacts of global finance and to mobilise investment for the ecological transition.

Katie Kedward is an economist and Policy Fellow in Sustainable Finance at IIPP. Her research interests focus on money, banking, and the intersection between finance and the environment. Prior to joining UCL, she worked in capital markets at the Royal Bank of Canada and as a banking specialist at ShareAction, the responsible investment NGO. Katie holds an MSc degree in ecological economics from the University of Leeds and a First Class BA (Hons) from the University of Cambridge. She enjoys speaking about finance and economics at grassroots events, and has contributed to publications such as Open Democracy. Katie sits on the advisory panel for Positive Money UK, an NGO campaigning for a fair, democratic, and sustainable financial system.

Gregor Semieniuk is an Assistant Research Professor at the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst. He is also a Senior Lecturer at the Economics Department at SOAS, and affiliated with UCL and the University of Sussex. He is a lead author on UNEP’s 2018 Emission Gap Report on low-carbon innovation policy. Current research projects study the drivers of low carbon investment, the energy intensity of economic growth, both in the world in general and in particular in China during its reform years, and the salience of different inequality measures contingent on the social context.

This is part of a webinar series "Intensifying Inequalities and the Limitations of Global Capitalism", organised by the SOAS Department of Economics.

The webinar is open to all and there is no need for registration. All our webinars are recorded and will be made available on this webpage at a later date.