Strengthening International Cooperation to Promote Green Finance and ESG Development in China at the 2021 International Green Finance Conference

The Paulson Institute, Beijing Institute of Finance and Sustainability (IFS), and other related organizations co-organized the three-day 2021 International Green Finance Conference starting on December 3 in Beijing. The event focused broadly on sustainable finance outcomes advanced at the G20 and on the latest green finance developments domestically and globally.

2021 is a landmark year in the history of green and sustainable finance, with major progress made domestically and internationally.
—Gracie Sun

Participants had in-depth discussions around the progress of Chinese financial institutions’ environmental and climate information disclosure making relevant recommendations. They also shared ESG best practices of Chinese and international financial institutions to promote ESG development in China. Gracie Sun, Senior Advisor of the Paulson Institute and Managing Director of Green Finance Center, moderated the opening session of the conference and was a speaker for the “Global Green Finance Trends” session.

During the opening session, Sun noted, “2021 is a landmark year in the history of green and sustainable finance, with major progress made domestically and internationally.” In this year

Ma Jun, Chairman of the Green Finance Committee, China Society for Finance and Banking, and President of IFS, Rahul Ahluwalia, Minister Counsellor of the British Embassy in China, Mary Schapiro, Head of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and former Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Stephen Nolan, Managing Director of the Financial Centres for Sustainability (FC4S), also delivered opening remarks to begin the conference.

In the Global Green Finance Trends session, Sun joined a distinguished panel including Ma Jun, Cong Lin, President of China Renaissance and Chairman of China Renaissance Securities (Hong Kong), Li Shaojie, Managing Director of Fidelity International China, Zhao Jing, Vice President of Moody’s China Operations, and Sha Mengwei, Manager of the Asia Secretariat of Financial Centres for Sustainability (FC4S). Iris Wu, Director of Institutional Relations for China of CFA Institute, moderated the session.

Over the past year, addressing climate change and promoting sustainability has been put back on the US agenda.
—Gracie Sun

She shared the latest green finance trends in the US saying, “Over the past year, addressing climate change and promoting sustainability has been put back on the US agenda, and many of the actions taken by the Biden administration reinforce this commitment.” These actions include:

  • Re-entering the Paris Agreement,
  • Convening the Leaders’ Summit on Climate,
  • Leading the Global Methane Pledge,
  • Announcing the US commitment to its International Climate Finance Plan at the UN General Assembly,
  • And signing the US-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s.

Sun further noted that while there is increasing work around climate-related disclosures and high enthusiasm for sustainable finance from the US private sector, there is still much more progress to pursue. “In addition to the greater need of private sector funding, there are still issues to be solved, including information disclosure, standards alignment, data access and management, etc. And on financing biodiversity, the US should take more action and invest more resources,” said Sun.

Ma Jun’s remarks for the sessions summarized the efforts of the G20 Sustainable Finance Working Group (SFWG), elevated from the G20 Sustainable Finance Study Group (SFSG) in April 2021, emphasizing the roadmap that was developed to guide the work of the G20 countries and many international organizations in these areas over the next five years. Priorities include improving the comparability, compatibility, and consistency of sustainable finance standards, building a transition finance framework, using fintech to reduce disclosure costs for small and medium businesses, and gradually incorporating nature and biodiversity conservation into the efforts.

Cong Lin contributed the Chinese financial sector’s point of view. He indicated that the sector is actively exploring and identifying green investment opportunities hoping to use finance to support real economic development. However, compared with the size of China’s financial markets, green finance is still in its infancy—even accounting for the newly established RMB 80 billion national green fund and other green and ESG-themed funds. Lin suggested aligning market standards for green projects and crafting better policy incentives would help support green finance market development.

Li Shaojie shared how asset management companies around the world should play their part in achieving a low-carbon future, and Zhao Jing introduced the recent emergence of social bonds as one of the fastest-growing segments of the green, social, and sustainability bonds market and its role and social impact in response to the pandemic. Lastly, Sha Mengwei announced that FC4S would deploy technology in member cities to resolve the data bottleneck issue regarding sustainable development related information disclosure and help build capacity.

During the Global Green Finance Trends session, experts presented a variety of perspectives that together summed up the great progress made in 2021 across various stakeholder groups and outlined some of the work that lies ahead in 2022.