With hopes fading for a comprehensive climate treaty as the clock ticks down to Copenhagen, increasing focus will be placed on interim measures and incremental agreements that can be formalised at Copenhagen.  Coming just six weeks before the summit, the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is hosting its Global Roundtable in Cape Town.  The first time the event has been hosted in Africa, the Roundtable, which opens this evening, aims to partner environmental groups under the umbrella of UNEP with representatives of the financial sector and provide a forum for discussing and setting new agendas for sustainable finance.

 The summits focus, ‘Financing Change, Changing Finance’ is timely, especially in lieu of flagging momentum for a comprehensive agreement at Copenhagen. Governments and political momentum has illustrated its weakness this year in overcoming major barriers to enacting an agreement at Copenhagen, for example Congress’s inability to implement and legislate binding targets on emissions has resulted in many feeling Copenhagen might be a wasted opportunity before it has begun. This does however mean focus may now shift more in favour of the private sector, which has an opportunity to show what collaborative and innovative financing architecture can achieve. 

The volatility of the finance and evolving capital markets means there is no simple step to implementing sustainable financing mechanism, especially with regards to ecosystem services where there is not a fixed or easily measurable metric or asset. However the planetary implications of climate change and global ecosystem loss mean there is momentum to get discussions on the table and integrate climate, poverty and social dimensions into financing mechanisms.

The Roundtable will have wide representation from major financial institutions including Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos, the Financial Times Sustainable Bank of the Year as well as a host of South African and international private banks, financial analyst firms, global players in the insurance business and suite of the leading global environmental NGOs like the WWF. The event is unique in bringing together top calibre financing institutions and venture capitalists with the leading brains behind innovations in environmental finance like Pavan Sukhdev, the ‘Stern’ of ecosystem services, as study leader for The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB).

The timing of the event and amalgamation of speakers and attendees means there is an opportunity to deliver some hope before Copenhagen in working towards incremental financing mechanisms. One hopes the ‘butterfly effect’ of changing finance can inspire the existing political barriers in building momentum before Copenhagen.

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