Net-Zero|Gian Maria GrosPietro


Source: China-Europe-America Wechat Official Account

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Chairman, Intesa Sanpaolo, Gian Maria GrosPietro's Speech

In the mid-2000s, Thomas Friedman, in a famous best seller, argued that the world was flat. Globalisation had narrowed the gaps between the countries that had been industrialised the longest and those that had followed them in later times, or were still going through the industrialisation process. Technology exports narrowed productivity gaps; the development of long-distance transport broke down geographical barriers; the development of online communications made it possible to locate sophisticated management capabilities and their applications everywhere. The birth of global value chains had led to the exchange of know-how and horizontal collaboration between suppliers, vendors and customers. Open innovation has also extended these exchanges to the development of new technologies.


It was the strength of the markets that led investments where costs are lower and the opportunities for consumption development are expected to be greater. It could be imagined that the process would continue until a complete levelling off of labour costs, living standards and levels of development between countries and continents. This would have happened thanks to the efficiency of the markets, without the need for, nor convenience to, interfere with their functioning.


The financial crisis that began in 2007, triggered by the collapse of sub-prime credits in the United States, exploded in 2008 with the Lehman Brothers case, and was followed by the 2011 debt crisis in Europe. They were connected and interlinked events. They showed that the need to monitor and regulate financial markets has not been overcome. That the intervention of States and international organisations may be necessary. And that, in some cases, it is crucial.


The recent health crisis, originating from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, has emphasised that humanity does not rule over the planet and its vital forces.


The increasingly evident data of progressive and threatening changes in the climatic equilibrium show that humanity, despite not ruling over the planet, is nevertheless able to significantly alter its equilibrium. Therefore, today it has the duty, or rather the unavoidable necessity, to take responsibility for it.


The awareness of the anthropogenic cause of the climate changes underway, and the analysis of their progression and possible remedies, also result in greater awareness of the other effects of human activity.


We are increasingly aware, even as consumers, that the indiscriminate use of resources impoverishes the planet, and that their transformation into waste pollutes it. Appreciation is growing for the circular economy principle, which can limit the use of raw materials and energy, and makes the resources used recoverable.


By developing the circular economy, the world, rather than a flat surface, tends to resemble a self-perpetuating spiral. The preservation of the environment, as the responsibility of human beings, already at the basis of many primitive civilisations, is being revisited through the progress made by science.


Science will be the main factor that will allow humanity to save itself and the planet. We have had recent proof of this, with the pandemic: thanks to the scientific knowledge accumulated from basic research, applied research and technology, it has been possible to produce effective vaccines in a much shorter time than had ever been possible in the past, including in recent history. A similar result, but on a much larger scale, will be needed to halt, and possibly reverse, global warming and environmental degradation. Each year, the world consumes resources equal to 175% of those that reproduce themselves; in 50 years, the world has lost 58% of its biodiversity. Figures such as these indicate how serious the situation is and how urgent it is to change the current processes.


Many resources will have to be invested in the scientific field. Many more will be needed to transform new knowledge into products and services that are compatible with environmental protection: production plants and distribution and recovery networks will have to be replaced, new methods of use will have to be imagined and disseminated among the public. The required investments will be huge: if well managed, they will be an opportunity for the circulation of wealth and social well-being.


Financial institutions will have a primary responsibility for channelling private and public savings, market and sovereign financial resources, towards sustainable goals.


A professional skillset typical of the financial world will be essential: the ability to analyse plans and projects, including over long periods of time, to calculate the amount of resources required to achieve the objectives, to check in advance whether incoming flows match outgoing flows, time after time, so that the resources required to continue are never lacking in any part of the process. This is the concept of the road map: it is not enough to indicate the final destination, every step of the way counts. It takes just one impassable step to compromise the entire process.


This concept is very clear to the bank I chair: we have already reduced our CO2 emissions by 60% compared to 2008, we are committed to achieving Net Zero Emissions in 2050, but we know that only a collective effort, led by the States within the scope of global agreements, will lead to a successful outcome.


The sustainability not only of the final destination, but also of every single step of the way, must be ensured globally, as well as nationally. Each and every commitment will need to be placed in the preparation of the enabling factors that will allow the next steps. And the enabling factors cannot only be physical, economic and financial ones, but must also include social ones. Sustainability cannot only be environmental: it must be socially inclusive, or else it will be difficult to achieve.


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