Could working overalls of environmentalists replace bankers’ suits? Have the financiers found a remedy to solve the environmental crisis, or is it just a pretext to cash in on nature even more? We asked the co-director of this very aptly named film how the world of finances wants to bank nature.
The world of global capital is more and more interested in the protection of the environment. Not that the bankers and businessmen have suddenly become all green – it’s because in certain situations the environment is a great investment opportunity.
In the film Banking Nature, Sandrine Feydel and Denis Delestrac ask both supporters and opponents of financialisation and commercialisation of nature to explain what they imagine environmental protection should look like. The financiers say that implementing economic tools for nature management represents a powerful tool through which a lot of good can be achieved. The opponents object that such an idea is perverse as well as dangerous – if banking nature led to a similar crash that occurred at the end of the previous decade in relation to the mortgage crisis , the consequences could be fatal for the whole planet. Is it worth it then to let the economists have so much power and should our environmental heritage be up for sale?
In your film the voices from both sides are quite balanced, however you seem to stand on the side of the opponents of the implementation of economic tools for managing natural heritage. Are we wrong?
You are right. The film follows the path I have taken for two years. At the beginning of my investigation, I thought that these new economic tools could have an interest in taking care of our natural heritage. Throughout this journey, I found out the hidden agenda and interests of some of the proponents of these economic mechanisms. I ended up discovering the risks associated with the financial tools in development.
On the one hand there are the proponents of the “value” of nature – they say that we have to perceive such a category by heart in a way – on the other hand there are the advocates of the “price” of nature – who see numbers as the important topic. Does the solution come when the financial sector starts to follow their “heart”? During the shooting of the film, have you met an institution or an individual that would have such a “heart” and use it?
I think this is not the debate! I would say that most of the proponents of these new markets I met do have a heart, as you say, and use it. Some of them even think that these new economic tools will never lead to the development of economic and financial markets. Some think that the economic valuation of nature does not mean putting a price tag on nature. Others believe that making money by protecting nature is the most moral behaviour a man can have.
The question to my mind is not to find out who is sincere and genuine, and who is not. It is to reveal what the consequences of the development of these new markets could be. As someone I interviewed said : “You create the tools, but you cannot control who will use them and how”. Who could have ever imagined before the last economic crisis that some people would create financial derivative products to speculate on the homeowners’ defaults?
Is the power of the financial sector really so big that if the system of trading with credits and allowances collapsed it could lead to a global environmental crisis? What is the worst thing that could happen in this scenario in your opinion?
This is the belief of some economists we interviewed, opponents and proponents of these markets. To my mind, the greatest danger comes from the closest and closest links and interests between the finance and banking world, and the protection of nature. If protection of nature has to be profitable to be efficient and left in the hands of market forces, what will happen when a krach occurs? We already are the witnesses of such a krach : carbon markets were supposed to make carbon pollution more expensive than cleaner industrial technologies. Almost 20 years after, it is a failure. Carbon emissions are higher and higher.
In the film we can hear the idea that in the USA there is no debate on the environment, the politicians deal with the issue only in relation to economic effects. What do you think is the situation in Europe? During the shooting of the film have you come across an institution – governmental, EU or other – which could (or should) act as a leader in the sphere of environmental policy?
During the shooting, we were allowed to attend close-doors meetings at the European Commission. The Commission is consulting to see how it can implement these new tools in the EU. It listens to NGO and representatives from governments, but corporations too. As the former Commissioner for the Environment told us, the previous program to preserve biodiversity in the EU has failed, and there is not enough public money to implement strong and ambitious policies. As a consequence, the Commission is trying to find new revenues for its programs. In some countries, like in the UK, the government is willing to develop these new environmental markets.