Business leaders call for reform of the global financial system



With economic recovery topping the United States and global political agenda, a group of CEOs, major investors and bankers and former political leaders have called for a far-reaching reform of the global financial system at a summit which ended today in Washington D.C.

More than 500 movers and shakers from around the world met at the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative Global Roundtable (UNEP FI) summit to find sustainable solutions to tackle the drivers of market volatility and address the deepening rift between the rich and the poor.

Among those calling for change include former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former Irish President Mary Robinson and as well as decision-makers in the investment, banking and insurance sector such as State Street Global Advisors, Aviva Investors, China Merchants Bank and Munich Re.

Other speakers included US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Recommendations included the implementation of policies that can mobilize investment at scale by the banking and investment sectors into emerging industries associated with sustainability - including the clean energy sector, renewable energy, green buildings and retrofitting, clean vehicles and fuels.

'Economic policies must move in a direction that balances the needs of all stakeholders. It is not enough to restore the financial industry to previous levels of capitalization and profitability, without simultaneously providing a path that seeks to return all Americans to their previous levels of economic security and opportunity,' said Calvert Investments CEO and UNEP FI co-chair Barbara Krumsiek.

Her views were shared by UNEP FI head Paul Clements-Hunt who said  'The world's economy is at a tipping point. The risk that the disconnect between grassroots economic realities and financial markets erodes the trust that binds us together is real.'

'If we are to avert this scenario, the global economy's most damaging flaws must be re-engineered with the adoption of market practices that value both sustainability and long-term financial stability,' added Clements-Hunt.

The summit's participants stressed that with the right incentives in place private finance can play an essential role in spurring a recovery of the US economy and achieve job-creation in sectors ranging from green technology to ecosystem management.

For instance, a well-regulated forest-carbon market could, for instance, grow to $10+ billion USD by 2020, according to The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity (TEEB), while that of total forest ecosystem goods and services is estimated at $5 trillion USD.

With less than a year to go before the much-talked about UN Conference on Sustainable Development (or Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, UNEP FI explained that the Washington D.C. Global Roundtable was the first in a series of agenda-setting and action-oriented discussions on the private sector's increasing role in global environmental protection.

'Clearly the financial world must do its part in creating mechanisms that lead to a more equitable and green economy. The set of concrete proposals put forward during the Global Roundtable are a politically credible and economically sound roadmap to achieve this goal,' said Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland.

Among the side-events that took place over the course of the two-day summit, was the launch of an initiative to integrate ecological risk in sovereign credit ratings and government bonds, as well as the launch of the 2011 Investor's Statement on Climate Change, with which  investors worth $20 trillion urged a legally-binding climate treaty.

GLOBE 2012, taking place March 14-16, 2012 in Vancouver, is the next agenda-setting event leading to the Rio+20 Summit. UNEP-FI head Paul Clements-Hunt will be speaking at the GLOBE 2012, which will bring experts from government and the private sector together to explore new economic and financial models that take  into consideration environmental, social, and governance issues. Get more information on GLOBE 2012 here

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