Progress in the creation of the perfectly sustainable world

21 January 2021

By Ken Rayner, Verbatim RSMR Model Portfolio Manager

Due to the pandemic and the enforced closure of showrooms hitting demand, car sales in the UK slumped by almost 30% last year. New car registrations amounted to 1,631,064, a drop of 680,076 compared to 2019 and the lowest number since 1992. This also reflects the gradual move to electric vehicles, the government’s plans to restrict diesel and petroleum leading up to the 2030 deadline and the changes in infrastructure in the UK to accommodate electric vehicles.

The overall market has clearly suffered but electric cars have come out on top, enjoying their best year yet. There are now over 100 plug-in car models to choose from, with manufacturers due to add 35 more to the market this year, more than new petrol or diesel models planned for 2021. The Ford Fiesta was the best-selling car last year, but the electric Tesla Model 3 was the most popular car in December. Electric vehicles are still on catch up compared to models based on the internal combustion engine, but they are gaining serious momentum.

According to the International Energy Agency, there were 7.2 million electric cars on the road globally by 2019, with 47% of them in China. China is the world’s leading market for electric vehicles, but Europe is hot on their heels. Closer to home, in 2019, around 58.5% of licensed cars were petrol, 39.1% diesel and the remainder were either a plug-in-hybrid, battery electric, range-extended electric, or fuel cell electric car, placing the UK fourth worldwide by market share, and seventh by volume. Investment in infrastructure will gradually see an increase in these figures and with the first forecourt dedicated to charging electric vehicles opening at the end of last year near Braintree in Essex, the UK’s acceleration to electric starts here.

Ambition to create a sustainable world has never been more energised and the Prince of Wales has recently announced the launch of his ambitious Magna Carta-style charter, calling on business and industry to lead the fight against the climate crisis for future generations. The Terra Carta is a new set of guiding principles that put nature, people and the planet at the heart of global value creation.

The Prince’s plan is basically the pinnacle of 50 years of environmental campaigning and he led the launch at the One Planet Summit in Paris earlier this month. Prince Charles believes that sustainability is a choice and that we can make it part of our core values, defining our purpose, determining our choices and driving our actions and he’s calling on the private sector to sign up.

Across the globe in Saudi Arabia, there are plans to build a zero-carbon city. As an oil exporter hugely dependant on fossil fuels, they are having to react in a radical way to the general direction of travel to offset and diversify their own environment. ‘The Line’ will be the first major construction project for the $500 billion flagship business zone and it’s due to extend over 105 miles, housing a million residents in carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy.

All these projects and developments tie into one overarching goal, the creation of a sustainable planet. The world is changing; when we come out of the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, it will matter how companies have behaved and responded during these incredibly tough times. How much do businesses consider the impact on the environment and how do they treat their employees and customers?

In terms of assets and investments, people want to know where their money is invested, they are no longer interested in sunset industries and they want the future to be bright. Responsible investing is a sector within the world of investments, but this type of investing will surely soon become the only place that we put our money.

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