27 November 2020

Sustainable Finance Provides ‘Tailwind’ for Inclusive, Green Recovery from Pandemic, Deputy Secretary-General Tells UBS Conference

(Delayed in Transmission)

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s video message to the UBS European Virtual Conference, held on 9 November:

Thank you for the opportunity to join you today.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has created the largest health and economic crisis in a century, and has also become a humanitarian catastrophe.

In this dire context, many countries are severely constrained in their capacity to finance a robust response, placing their efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a perilous path.

The challenge of financing the Sustainable Development Goals is not new.  Since 2015, when this set of ambitious goals for building a better world for all was created, there has been a persistent $3 trillion financing gap.  The COVID‑19 pandemic has widened this gap, as the funding needed to weather this crisis skyrockets, and the available capital withers.

To step up the world’s progress, we need not only quick solutions during the emergency, but a fundamental reorientation of the financial system so that it fully serves people and planet.  Fortunately, the shift towards sustainable finance has already begun.  We can see those most clearly in the recent growth of responsible investment.

As part of the “Finance for Development in the Era of COVID‑19 and Beyond” initiative, co‑convened by the Secretary‑General and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica, leaders made strong calls for blue, green, Sustainable Development Goal, and gender bonds, debt‑for‑climate and debt‑for‑SDG swaps, blended and ESG [Environmental, Social, Governance] finance, mandatory climate risk disclosures, and increased public‑private partnerships.

Sustainable finance can provide a strong tailwind for a green and inclusive recovery.  The European Union’s Economic Recovery Plan — which earmarked nearly 30 per cent of its funds to green initiatives — is an important step in the right direction.  But for truly global impact, this must become the norm, not the exception.

The Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance representing over $40 trillion convened by the Secretary‑General has set out guidelines for sustainable development investment, and the United Nations global compact with 40,000 businesses across the world has issued a set of key principles for chief financial Officers to follow as companies integrate the SDGs into business plans and operations.

Our hope is that adherence to these principles will be accompanied by creativity and innovation in order to scale up funding for the SDGs to the level that is needed, especially in developing countries and emerging markets.

COVID-19 has reminded us that our future depends on the health and well‑being of every person on the planet.  It is also a wake‑up call for future crises — above all the impending climate catastrophe - that will have an even bigger impact than COVID‑19.  Meeting the financing test is an imperative.

Just in the last year we have seen record temperatures in the Arctic, with 38 degrees Celsius recorded in Siberia, and Arctic sea ice formation happening later than ever recorded.  A record 13.4 million people who need humanitarian assistance in the Sahel region have been forced to leave their homes by unprecedented flooding across West and Central Africa.  We have witnessed with horror the devastating wildfires in the United States and Australia.  And this September was the hottest ever recorded globally.

These are not just abstract distant events, but rather symptoms of a gathering crisis that will increasingly impact every country and every part of the economy. Nobody will be immune.

At the same time, the disruption caused by the pandemic offers a once in a century opportunity to implement transformational and systemic change and create a better and sustainable world.  It is vital that as we recover economically from COVID‑19 we do so in a manner that is sustainable and fully consistent with the SDGs and Paris Agreement [on climate change] goals.  And the evidence shows that we can rebuild our economies as we promote millions of better jobs, more equitable societies, cleaner and more efficient technologies and better health.

Let us unite to pursue the business of building a better world.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.