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Is Finance Ready to Go Green?

The financial industry plays an indispensable role in the modern economy by allocating society's savings to borrowers engaged in productive pursuits. It could also play a crucial role in facilitating the investments needed to combat climate change, but only after it is restructured for that purpose.

LONDON – Since the 2008 financial crisis, the question of how to guide activity in the sector has featured prominently in public discourse, particularly in debates about building a sustainable future. In its most basic form, finance is a means of arbitrage between savers and borrowers: its purpose is to direct society’s savings toward productive ends. For those who provide financing, the goal is to support projects that promise a high return relative to a given level of risk, and to shy away from projects perceived as too risky for the return on offer. Most large corporations conduct the same kind of assessment when deciding how to allocate capital.