U.K. companies refusing to combat climate change could be removed from the stock market

John McDonnell/Creative Commons

"We need to ensure that companies are pulling their weight alongside government."

Call it a Labour of love for Planet Earth. John McDonnell, the Labour Party's Shadow Chancellor in the United Kingdom's Parliament, has proposed a bold new initiative that would require companies to do their part to help combat climate change.

Under the proposal, companies that aren't "pulling their weight" on environmental reforms could see their status in the London Stock Exchange threatened. McDonnell said the proposal was necessary to "ensure that companies are pulling their weight alongside government." The London Stock Exchange represents more than 2,000 companies from 60 nations and an estimated wealth of nearly $5 trillion U.S. dollars.

Critics from the U.K.'s Green Party have been critical of Labour's reluctance to embrace more radical stances on environmental issues. And with the nation's national elections less than two months away, the proposal is being viewed by some as an attempt to bring the Greens into the fold for the necessary majority to form a governing majority coalition against Boris Johnson' Conservative Party. In order to make the changes McDonnell proposed, a ruling majority would have to make changes to England's Corporate Governance Code

Calling climate change an "existential threat" to the planet, McDonnell said it was imperative that private companies do their part without placing the entire burden for reform on taxpayers and federal government. "For those companies not taking adequate steps under Labour they will be delisted from the London Stock Exchange," he said.

"If we are meet the climate change target to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, we need to ensure that companies are pulling their weight alongside government," he said during a public event, according to the Independent.

Related: Italian council chamber floods—just after council rejected climate change measures

John McDonnell/Creative Commons

A number of scientists have said that even with most of the world's nations having signed on to the Paris Climate Accord, more will need to be done in order to prevent the world's temperatures from rising to catastrophic levels and from posing that "existential" threat McDonnell described.

It was the second major financial proclamation from McDonnell in less than a week. On Tuesday, he boldly declared that "no one" needs to be a billionaire and promised that if Labour takes power after this current election cycle is completed, they would make it a priority to redistribute a greater amount of wealth in order to bolster the nation's social safety net.

With the election centered on Boris Johnson's promise to complete a Brexit deal, McDonnell and other Labour leaders have tried to forge a direct connection between the unpopular policy and the influence of wealth in British politics. "No one needs or deserves to have that much money, it is obscene," McDonnell said. "It is also obscene that these billionaires are buying access and tax breaks to Boris Johnson's Conservative Party."

McDonnell insisted that even with the somewhat radical nature of his proposal that businesses are not necessarily opposed to the pressures to join the fight against climate change, saying: "Business bodies are calling for companies to improve climate-related financial reporting and for all companies to bring forward decarbonization plans."

The U.K. 2019 election will be held on December 12.

The Planet
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