Bet on Green Economy, Secretary-General Urges Banks at Launch of ‘UN Principles for Responsible Banking’, Warning ‘Grey Economy’ Has No Future

SG/SM/19754-DEV/3412-ECO/310
22 September 2019

Bet on Green Economy, Secretary-General Urges Banks at Launch of ‘UN Principles for Responsible Banking’, Warning ‘Grey Economy’ Has No Future

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the launch of “United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking”, in New York today:

I am very pleased to join you today on the eve of the global Climate Action Summit and the General Assembly to launch the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking.  This week, global leaders will share the actions they are taking to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to end the climate crisis.  How you, as business leaders, respond can be a defining moment for our global goals.

Only public-private cooperation can deliver sustainable development.  I am counting on the private sector to support ambitious action.  To be objective, I’m witnessing more and more situations in which the private sector is leading, namely in climate change, and Governments are still holding back.  And so, more and more, this relationship is being a relationship driven by the private sector, which I consider extremely important in order to be able to achieve, not only effective climate action, but also the Sustainable Development Goals.

The banking sector is responsible for more than two thirds of all financing globally, and 90 per cent in developing countries.  It is in developing countries that you are facing, especially in the least developed countries, the most dramatic challenge in relation to the capacity to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.  The recent calculations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demonstrate that the gap in financing to reach the Goals in the least developed countries is, indeed, out of, I would say, reach from the point of view of the fiscal capacity of those countries.  So, your actions count.  That is why I ask you for ambitious action in three key areas.

First, aligning business goals with the Sustainable Development Goals.  With global wealth exceeding $300 trillion, the $2-3 trillion gap needed for the Sustainable Development Goals financing seems minuscule.

Second, support gender equality.  Make more loans available for women-owned businesses and work to ensure women are equally represented where you do business.  It is also important to support small and medium enterprises, many of which are women-owned, because they are the lifeblood of the economy.

My third ask, particularly important today, is to invest in climate action and to disinvest from fossil fuels and pollution in general.  Climate action has multiple benefits, including job creation, reduced air pollution, improved public health and greater security for nations and [economies.]

Given rapidly falling technology costs, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency makes sense from every angle.  To survive as a society, we will need to transform how we grow food, how we use land, how we fuel our transport and how we power our economies.  We will rely on you to scale up financing to businesses that stimulate green growth.  Place your bets on the green economy, not the grey economy, because the grey economy will have no future.

The United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking are a guide for the global banking industry to respond to, drive and benefit from a sustainable development economy.  The Principles create the accountability that can realize responsibility, and the ambition that can drive action.  They will enable banks around the world to align their strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

When a bank aligns its business with these Goals and with the goals of society, transformational change can take place.  The signatory banks that are with us today, and the more than 130 around the world that have already committed to the Principles for Responsible Banking, have demonstrated strong leadership.  Today, I call on you to advocate among your peers to sign up to these Principles.

As you now begin implementing them, set your targets high and wide.  And match your ambition with innovation.  Create new business models and offerings that both drive and respond to the emerging sustainable development economy.  As an industry you can help us succeed in shifting from incremental to exponential progress.

You are very powerful partners.  So, let us march, together, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  I thank you very much for your presence, for your commitment and for the extremely important role that you can play to make those Goals that many consider unachievable become a reality.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.