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Mark Carney-led GFANZ Removes Race to Zero Commitment Requirement for Members

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), a multi-trillion dollar alliance of financial institutions focusing on climate change and endorsed by the United Nations, said today that it will no longer need its signatories to adhere to the UN's climate action campaign, Race to Zero.

Launched in April 2021, GFANZ brings together various prominent net zero organizations representing financial industry sectors, including asset owners and managers, banks, insurers, investment consultants, service providers, and investors. By COP26 in November 2021, the effort will have amassed more than $130 trillion in assets and more than 450 member firms from around the world. Yesterday, GFANZ stated in its annual report that its membership had risen to more than 550 individuals.

Former Bank of England and Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney and Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg co-chair the GFANZ. This group consists of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative (NZAM), the Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance (NZAOA), the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), the Net Zero Financial Service Providers Alliance (NZFSPA), the Net Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA), the Net Zero Investment Consultants Initiative (NZICI), and the Paris Aligned Asset Owners initiative (PAAO) (PAAO).

One of the primary requirements for institutions to join one of the GFANZ alliances was a pledge to satisfy the minimum Race to Zero requirements. Under the auspices of the UNFCCC, Race to Zero is a worldwide campaign launched in 2020 to rally leadership and support from corporations, cities, regions, and investors dedicated to halving global emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050.

Race to Zero alignment includes a stringent set of conditions, including a pledge to attain net zero emissions by 2050 and an intermediate target for 2030, an explanation of the activities required to accomplish the goals, and a commitment to report on progress toward the goals, among others.

This year, Race to Zero added a requirement for participants to submit a transition plan within 12 months of joining the campaign, as well as a pledge to achieve net zero emissions across all emission scopes. The "all emission scopes" requirement for financial institutions covered funded and portfolio emissions. In addition, the requirements restricted the development and financing of new fossil fuel assets by members.

In addition, the revised criterion asked signatories to link their lobbying and advocacy operations with net zero by proactively supporting subnational and national climate policies that are consistent with their campaigns.

The strict Race to Zero criteria reportedly challenged the ability of many GFANZ members to remain in the group, either due to restrictions on their ability to finance fossil fuel companies as energy security concerns in recent months have caused threats of shortages and price spikes or due to potential legal issues, with concerns that the lobbying requirements or fossil fuel-related criteria could conflict with institutions' fiduciary responsibilities. In a letter to BlackRock, a member of the GFANZ steering committee, numerous U.S. Attorneys General asserted, among other things, that the firm's support to the effort was not consistent with its fiduciary responsibilities.

In a statement to ESG Today, a GFANZ spokeswoman explained that the modifications "will help ensure that GFANZ's recommendations reflect regional contexts and the supervisory, regulatory, and legal duties particular to the financial industry as we continue to encourage net-zero implementation." Implementation is a crucial phase that necessitates direction and expertise from finance, science, academia, business, government, and civil society.

Concern was expressed by sustainable finance and investing advocacy groups regarding the announcement. Share Action's Head of Banking, Jeanne Martin, issued the following statement in response to the GFANZ's decision:

"We are highly troubled by the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net-decision Zero's to abandon the science-based Race to Zero principles supported by the United Nations. This comes at a critical juncture for the globe, with the IEA and UN agencies urging an immediate, rapid reduction in fossil fuel supply and consumption if we are to have any chance of mitigating climate change's worst effects.

"Financial institutions play a crucial role in accelerating the global transition to a low-carbon economy, and we urge sub-alliances and members to act up to their obligations and assist the phasing out of fossil fuels in accordance with a 1.5C-aligned route."

GFANZ members will now be "encouraged, but not compelled, to partner with the Race to Zero," according to a spokeswoman. The representative added:

"GFANZ and the sector-specific alliances will continue to consider the advice and recommendations of Race to Zero and other international organizations, such as the UNFCCC, IPCC, IEA, the G20's Financial Stability Board, and the UN High High-Level Expert Group on net zero."

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