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How we can deliver green action for real people at COP26 and beyond

James Close, Head of Climate Change

James Close, Head of Climate Change | NatWest

3 min read Partner content

We are working hard to make sure that advice and financial incentives are in place to help everyone play their part in the fight against climate change

Tackling climate change is at the heart of NatWest Group’s strategy. If we and other banks don’t incentivise and fund the transition to net zero, we will not win the fight against climate change.

As the bank’s Head of Climate Change, I am acutely aware of the difference we can make to reach net zero in the UK by 2050. With 19 million customers and, as the biggest bank for SMEs, we have a unique ability to help make change happen.

Our aim is to make significant strides as quickly as possible by working with others. We are also focussing on our own activity and have achieved net zero emissions in our own operations. We are also supporting green financing across the economy – having already met our commitment to put £20billion into climate and sustainable finance by the end of 2021, this month we went further and committed £100bn to climate and sustainable funding and financing by the end of 2025.

Big numbers and headlines are important, but they are not enough on their own. We are working hard to make sure that advice and financial incentives are in place to help everyone play their part in the fight against climate change.

One of the practical ways we can help is to make it easier for homeowners to upgrade their homes. Our Green Mortgages are designed to encourage people to buy properties with an EPC rating of A or B, or to upgrade them to that standard. But we know energy efficiency products can be prohibitively expensive, especially for those on lower incomes, and we need different skills in the economy to install and maintain new technologies.

We are the first bank in the UK to provide customers with real-time tracking of the carbon impacts of their spending

We know our customers want to decarbonise, but they also want it to be easier to understand and with clearer financial benefits. NatWest’s view is the burden of assessing different options shouldn’t lie with overwhelmed individuals. It is the responsibility of the leaders in finance, business and government to work together to provide the solutions that are needed.

For NatWest this year, with a particular importance for us as a Principal Partner of COP26, we have prioritised forming a number of partnerships across different sectors to help make change happen.

We’re combining our understanding of our business customers with Microsoft’s data and AI capabilities in a pilot programme, so that we can help businesses of all sizes see where and how they can reduce emissions.

We have joined forces with the social impact experts at CoGo, becoming the first bank in the UK to provide customers with real-time tracking of the carbon impacts of their spending, helping them to make informed decisions with ease.

And we have launched a Sustainable Homes and Buildings Coalition, working with Worcester Bosch, British Gas, Shelter and Citizens Advice to identify homeowners’ needs, support energy efficiency SMEs and start-ups, and to develop practical, understandable financial products for customers.

Our priority is to use these partnerships and our other relationships to tackle the most complex challenges in an inclusive way, by sharing our insights, combining our strengths, and improving the offer to our customers. If we do that well we will make it a lot easier and a lot more cost effective to transition to a zero-carbon future.

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