The financial system as a driver of the transition to a green economy

Bern, 06.05.2015 - At a symposium entitled «Swiss Finance in a changing world» and held in Bern today, national and international experts identified and debated ways in which the financial system can contribute to the transition to a green economy. The symposium was organised jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO and was staged in partnership with Swiss Sustainable Finance.

Humanity is living beyond its ecological means and is overexploiting the natural resources provided by our planet. To ensure the effective management of the associated negative impacts, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, a transition in the direction of an green economy that does not cause problems for future generations is required. A change of this kind will require major investments in resource-efficient infrastructure, technologies, and innovative production and consumption models. These cannot be financed using public resources alone, thus the mobilisation of private finance is urgently needed.

Switzerland's contribution to the international inquiry

For this reason, at the beginning of 2014 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the international UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System (see box). The aim of the Inquiry, which is based in Geneva, is to align the global financial system with the long-term needs of a green economy. The Inquiry proposes to develop recommendations as to how private finance can be mobilised for a green economy, and to identify the framework conditions best suited to attaining this objective. Following the major changes that took place in recent years, it would appear to be a good time for the financial sector to pursue a new direction. The Federal Office for the Environment FOEN supports this initiative and is represented on the Inquiry's Advisory Council by its Director Bruno Oberle.

As home to a globally active financial centre, Switzerland can contribute valuable experience to this international inquiry (see Fact Sheet). As host to numerous international institutions in the area of sustainability and pioneering companies in the field of sustainable finance, it is also optimally equipped to tackle this global challenge. For this reason, the FOEN established the «Swiss Team for the UNEP Inquiry» comprising representatives of the federal authorities, the financial sector, academia and non-governmental organisations. The team debated the core questions of the inquiry, i.e. why sufficient investments are not being made in the transition to a green economy  despite the availability of abundant private financial resources throughout the world, and what kind of framework conditions are needed for a financial system that would serve the needs of a green economy. The findings of the Swiss Team for the UNEP Inquiry were presented on 6 May 2015 on the occasion of the symposium «Swiss Finance in a changing world».

The symposium was staged in partnershp with Swiss Sustainable Finance, a platform operated by actors from the Swiss financial sector with the aim of strengthening Switzerland's position in the area of sustainble finance through information, education and growth.

Swiss symposium for the UNEP Inquiry

National and international pioneers in the area of sustainable finance convened today in Bern for the symposium «Swiss Finance in a changing world». Members of the UNEP Advisory Council discussed successful examples of sustainable financial practice for the future with leading experts from the Swiss financial sector. At the panel discussion at the end of the symposium, possible steps for developing the financial system into a driver of green economy were discussed under the heading «From Vision to Action».

Global report with strategies and recommendations

Based on the reports and experience presented by the participating states, the UNEP Inquiry will now develop strategies and recommendations for the framework conditions for a sustainable financial system. The insights from the symposium will be incorporated into the Inquiry's deliberations. The global final report will be published in October 2015 and is aimed at the specialist world and international institutions like the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund.

UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System

The United Nations Environment Programme UNEP is the environment programme of the United Nations and has its headquarters in Kenya. UNEP collects environmental data, monitors the state of the environment and develops instruments for environmental protection on behalf of the United Nations Organisation.

In spring 2014, UNEP launched the international UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System. As part of this process, various countries including Switzerland, made a voluntary commitment to initiate discourse at national level and to collect experience and suggestions, i.e. examples of best practice which show how the financial system can be directed towards meeting the needs of sustainable development and the green economy. The aim is to identify the factors that are preventing the flow of funds from the global financial system into sustainable technologies and products, and to formulate recommendations for framework conditions that would enable the alignment of the aims of the green economy with those of the financial system.

The UNEP Inquiry is based in Geneva. Switzerland is represented on its Advisory Council by the Director of the FOEN Bruno Oberle.

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