Global macro research

Seeking a sustainable future

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Professor Ian Boyd
Former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government on Food and the Environment
Professor at the University of St Andrews

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Joshua Kendall
Senior ESG Analyst
Insight Investment

All views as at 26 February 2020.

The focus is sharpening on the environment. Extreme weather events are dominating the headlines, green policies are increasingly influential, and activists are growing more vocal. Joshua Kendall, Senior ESG Analyst, speaks to Professor Sir Ian Boyd, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government on Food and the Environment, about issues including climate change, the dynamics that underlie government policy, and the future for food production and consumption.

Section 1: Climate change

  • Why have attitudes to climate change shifted so dramatically?
  • Where should policymakers concentrate their efforts?
  • What role does the market play?

"The market in an unsupervised form can produce odd and extremely damaging outcomes. This is where government intervention is needed, either to regulate for certain strategic outcomes or to address market failures when they happen."

Section 2: Politics, policy and process

  • What goes into deciding and setting government policy on environmental issues?
  • How might the growing focus on environmental issues translate into government action?
  • What is the role of lobbying, and how do subject-matter experts affect policy?
  • How do governments analyse whether to adopt a policy, on both the national and international level?

"In the City, among investors, bankers and insurers, there is huge interest... I think the government will listen to that side of the opinion more than the activist side."

Section 3: The future of food

  • What are the implications of a growing population and climate change on food production?
  • What are the main issues facing food producers today?
  • What innovations or technology will have the biggest impact on food production over the next 10 years?

"People are very focused on carbon, but they forget that we have to feed people without ruining the planet… consumption of food is really the biggest single issue."

Section 4: Consumption and resource availability

  • What might make a difference to how we use resources in a sustainable way?
  • Is reducing consumption a realistic outcome?
  • How might the use of resources actually be reduced?

"We're very good at supply-side solutions, but not at demand-side solutions. People don’t have the information in front of them to understand the relative environmental impact of the choice in front of them."

Section 5: The investor perspective

  • What does this mean for the investor community over the longer term?
  • What might be the impact of a lack of proactive policymaking on these issues?

"My very strong belief is that these problems are going to be solved by the market, but government needs to recognise that. I think investors are beginning to realise there is money to be made here."

 

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