Rishi Sunak wants to make it mandatory for hundreds of companies to adopt a greener approach in a new climate change drive

  • Rishi Sunak will announce plans to force Britain’s largest firms to go green
  • In an effort to combat climate change, controversial plans will be presented
  • Trillions of pounds of City of London assets are being redirected to initiatives like electric car batteries

Hundreds of Britain’s biggest firms will be forced to go green under controversial plans to tackle climate change.

Rishi Sunak will today unveil wide-ranging proposals to ‘rewire’ the economy towards reducing global warming.

The City of London will be able to redirect trillions of pounds of assets from carbon-intensive industries like oil and coal towards initiatives such as electric cars batteries.

But it will also impose requirements on all UK-listed companies to set out proposals to ‘transition’ towards net zero in the coming decades, with firms assessed annually against their published plans.

Rishi Sunak will today unveil wide-ranging proposals to ‘rewire’ the economy towards reducing global warming

Rishi Sunak will today unveil wide-ranging proposals to ‘rewire’ the economy towards reducing global warming

Failure to make sufficient progress or plans that are too weak could result in sanctions, such as fines or removal from the stock exchange.

Ministers hope the scheme will lead to a rapid shift away from investment in polluting industries and help drive progress towards the Government’s target of making the UK carbon neutral by 2050.

The Treasury said the plan would make the City ‘the world’s first net zero-aligned financial centre’.

But the compulsion is likely to prove controversial with some, and could have big consequences for firms in sectors such as oil, gas and mining – BP, Shell and mining giants Rio Tinto and Glencore are among those listed in London.

The Confederation of British Industry gave the idea a cautious welcome last night, saying that business was already ‘upping its game’. But the trade body warned it was vital ministers work with colleagues abroad to produce ‘globally consistent’ rules to prevent British-based firms being penalised.

City veteran Alasdair Haynes, chief executive of stock exchange Aquis, said it was ‘good that climate disclosures are put into companies’ reports and accounts’, but warned: ‘You have to have proportionality. A lot of fast-growing companies are facing high costs to complete their reporting, especially when you look at the detail of what’s needed.’

Today, Mr Sunak will announce the plans at the Cop26 climate summit. He will say that as one of the world’s biggest financial centres, the UK has a ‘responsibility to lead the way’ on the issue. A deal with 450 of the world’s biggest banks, pension funds and insurance firms will see almost £100billion worth of assets begin to ‘transition’ to lower carbon sectors.

The Chancellor has faced criticism from green groups over his approach to climate change, with Greta Thunberg insisting his Budget decision to cut taxes on domestic flights showed that the issue was ‘not his main priority’.

At the moment, companies are not under any obligation to go green. A recent study found that less than half of 100 companies on the FTSE 100 have made any commitment to moving to net zero.

The package will see trillions of pounds of assets controlled by the City of London redirected away from carbon-intensive sectors like coal and oil towards initiatives such as electric car batteries (stock image)

The City of London will control trillions of pounds of assets and redirect them away from carbon-intensive industries like oil and coal to fund initiatives such as electric cars batteries (stock photo).

Under the new arrangement, a ‘transition plan taskforce’. It is made up of regulators and academic leaders from industry and academia. The standards will be established for the plans. Sources said the quango is designed to prevent firms ‘greenwashing’ their records by adopting meaningless pledges. After consultation with businesses, the rules will be implemented in 2023.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said the moves were ‘steps in the right direction’ but that it was critical they did not apply only in the UK.

‘These need to be followed up with further action from policy makers to develop globally consistent climate and sustainability disclosure standards,’ she said.

Sam Alvis, of the Green Alliance, said ‘trillions of dollars are still flowing to fossil fuels every day and voluntary measures have not got us far enough’. He added that the new system would have to have ‘strict criteria with legal bite’.

The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero is a new arrangement that will see 40 percent of global investment be accounted for by firms who sign up for net zero goals.