On June 7th, 2023, the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI) and the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) hosted the second Sustainable Finance Summit as part of the Path to COP28 campaign. Building on the success of the previous summit held in February, this event aimed to mobilise private financial flows and accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

The Summit provided a platform for practitioners and global leaders to discuss and advance sustainable finance initiatives. Through keynote addresses, panel discussions, and the launch of a report, participants gained valuable insights into climate-aware investing, the just transition, and the finance sector’s contribution to addressing climate change.

Welcoming Remarks and COP28 Update

The summit commenced with welcoming remarks from Amal Larhlid, Partner & ESG Leader for Tax & Legal Services at PwC, who highlighted the importance of finance in achieving ambitious sustainability goals. Alya Al Zarouni, Chief Operating Officer of the Dubai International Financial Centre, and Omar Shaikh, Managing Director of GEFI, emphasised the need for both public and private finance to align with sustainable principles and contribute to the global climate agenda. A video address from HE Amb. Majid Al-Suwaidi, Director-General of COP28, provided an update on the urgent need for action to limit global warming and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Keynote Addresses

Peter Smith, Managing Director, Head of Strategy, Policy, and Risk at the Dubai Financial Services Authority, delivered a keynote address from a regulator’s perspective on sustainable finance. He emphasised the role of finance in driving the transition to a low-carbon economy and the importance of managing the just transition, which aims to ensure a fair and equitable shift to a sustainable future. Nick Robins, Professor in Practice for Sustainable Finance at the London School of Economics, discussed the financing of the just transition and the positive impacts it can have on job creation, health improvement, and inequality reduction.

Panel Discussion: Countdown to COP28, Climate-Aware Investing

The panel discussion, moderated by Christian Kunz, Chief Strategy, Innovation and Ventures Officer at DIFC, featured speakers from various organisations in the sustainable finance sector. Eline Sleurink from the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), David Sheasby from Martin Currie, Sebastien Lieblich from MSCI, and Mitch Reznick from Federated Hermes Ltd. discussed climate-aware investing, stewardship, and the importance of high-quality and transparent data for sustainable investments. They also highlighted the growing presence of the PRI in the Middle East and the potential of COP28 to drive further commitments.

Report Launch: Islamic Finance and the SDGs

Sam Wheldon-Bayes, Research Analyst at GEFI, presented the key findings of a survey on Islamic banking customer perspectives. The survey revealed that a significant majority of respondents consider it important for their banks to provide products aligned with the SDGs, indicating a strong demand for sustainable financial products within the Islamic finance sector. The report emphasised the opportunity for Islamic financial institutions to lead in promoting sustainability, given the alignment of their principles with the SDGs. Find the survey results at https://www.ukifc.com/islamic-finance-global-survey/.

Panel Discussion: How Sustainable Finance Can Help Decarbonise the Real Economy

The panel discussion, moderated by David Chollet from Accuracy, brought together experts from Emirates NBD, Sedco Capital, Mercer, and King & Spalding to discuss sustainable finance’s role in decarbonising the real economy. They highlighted the risks of greenwashing, the role of litigation in preventing it, and the importance of sustainable finance practices globally. The panellists agreed on the investment opportunities available across various sectors, such as renewable energy, reforestation, and green hydrogen. Their expectations for COP28 included a greater focus on fossil fuel solutions, national contribution announcements, and increased involvement of financial institutions in sustainable finance.

Keynote Presentation and Interview: Understanding How to Finance Nature

Satya Tripathi, Secretary General of the Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet, delivered a keynote presentation on financing nature. He emphasised the need for collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sectors to address climate change effectively. Tripathi highlighted the potential of the private sector, with its innovation and entrepreneurship, to contribute to sustainable finance. In an interview with Amal Larhlid, they discussed the importance of taxonomies, the urgency of addressing the developing world’s vulnerability to climate change, and the availability of funding for sustainable initiatives. Examples of sustainable initiative cases ranging from biodiversity initiatives to low carbon projects from Tripathi’s experience were highlighted for their profitability and impact on achieving climate targets.

Closing Remarks

In her closing remarks, Amal Larhlid reiterated the significance of taking proactive measures in sustainability, stating that “every investment we make in sustainability is an investment in the future of our planet” and encouraging attendees to become active facilitators of change and to continue driving sustainable finance forward.

Contact chris@globalethicalfinance.org to discuss how we can help your organisation's COP28 journey.