13 October 2023

Accountability for a Just Transition

Gregory Berry, Policy Associate at Accountability Counsel, highlights the importance of local community input into climate and biodiversity projects.

When sudden disaster strikes, emergency responders rely on triage systems to optimise survival outcomes under time and resource limitations. Some have attempted to apply the concept of emergency triage to the gradual threat of climate change, arguing that environmental and social due diligence must be deprioritised to ensure a rapid response to the global crisis. Rights and inclusiveness be damned, they argue, we need action. Never mind that catering to the outsized political and economic power of special interests, not the public interest, is actually to blame for decades of delayed action. But as much as private sector wealth and influence have been a cause of the sickness, multilateral development banks are resolute that they are also the cure.

Past passivity and outright denial of climate change has resulted in an exponentially larger problem to address in less time, with the worst impacts borne by the poorest members of society and discretely by women. Add to it the grave risks of biodiversity loss, and our planetary stress compounds. As multilateral institutions push to devote more financing for global public goods, and seek to attract more private sector money, they ironically risk deprioritising the very environmental and social safeguards intended to help in the effort.

This time of important transition demands careful attention to the environmental and social risks of rapid development for adaptation and mitigation, or else we risk creating or exacerbating other crises consequential not only to our economic systems, but also to our quality of life and survival. We must respond responsibly to climate change, and that is by holding our institutions accountable for honouring a just, inclusive, and resilient transition. Fortunately, impact measurement and reporting standards are increasingly requiring investors to hear from and be accountable to the very communities who they impact. Any investor committed to climate and biodiversity finance should adhere to these standards.

Read the full op-ed on ESG Investor here.