The decade to 2030 is widely seen as critical in global efforts to reduce carbon emissions if we are to reach net zero by mid-century and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. While urgency to take action grows, issues such as energy security, supply chain dynamics and rising inflation are creating a unique geopolitical and economic context.
This context set the scene for the seventh BNP Paribas Sustainable Future Forum (SFF), the Bank’s flagship sustainability event, which welcomed over 165 expert speakers, including corporate decision-makers, investors and policymakers, along with more than 1,800 delegates. The event’s hybrid format promoted a global conversation, with in-person events held in 11 countries on the same day, as well as a digital event that livestreamed key sessions and featured cross industry expert insights from around the globe.
Transition levers: government, regulation and technology
As the sun rose, the forum kicked off in the Asia Pacific region, with events in Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul, focusing on a broad range of transition levers, from the role of the public sector in the sustainable transition, to regulation and technology.
Events in Tokyo and Singapore underlined the proactive steps being taken by governments in the region to accelerate decarbonisation while spurring growth; while insights from the Monetary Authority of Singapore revealed a strong focus on technology, revealing how the leading APAC regulator is using digital traceability and blockchain to achieve material results.
The discussion on policy and regulation continued throughout the day. Paris highlighted the significance of initiatives such as the EU Taxonomy, the challenge to scale up alignment, and the opportunities it holds to promote transparency, mitigate risk and direct private capital towards the sustainable transition. London SFF also featured policy insights across the UK Climate Change Committee and Confederation of British Industry, with priority areas highlighted across net zero strategy, green finance standards and decarbonising the built environment. In New York, a panel on the unprecedented Inflation Reduction Act underlined how it will accelerate the transition with circa US$370 billion US directed to areas ranging from incentivising electric vehicle (EV) adoption to boosting the domestic production of key technologies.
Corporate transition: from targets to implementation
Events in Seoul and Sydney both took a deep dive into challenges and opportunities of the transition for corporates and investors, with speakers from companies including Hyundai Motor, Novelis, Shinhan Financial Group, Worley, Treasury Wine Estates and Aware Super.
As we followed the sun from Asia Pacific to Europe and the Middle East, the corporate transition remained a core theme. SFF events and digital content from Amsterdam, Zurich, Madrid, Milan, London, Lisbon, Paris and Abu Dhabi featured a broad range of corporate, as well institutional speakers, including Engie, Hitachi, Schneider, Michelin, Jaguar Land Rover, Invesco, AXA, H2 Energy, H&M, Renewcell, Vinci, Holcim, Swiss Ré, Air Liquide, Eneco, European Commission, Euronext, Nothern Lights JV, SNAM, the OECD and Legrand.
Key themes across sessions included:
- There is momentum among corporates, but greater action must be taken to translate decarbonisation targets into credible action plans, from adapting production and supply chains to proactive investment in low carbon alternatives and proprietary technologies. Collaboration across supply chains and with innovators is also key.
- Investors are increasingly expecting corporates to be both scientific and transparent in their transition approaches, and data is critical for companies to make real-time decisions; as is peer-to-peer knowledge sharing from other corporates’ transition journeys,
- When companies seek to place sustainability at the heart of corporate purpose and business transformation, it becomes an important driver of employee engagement, ideas generation and talent acquisition,
- Financial institutions have a strong role to play in incentivising corporate transition journeys via innovative and scientifically material sustainable finance products and solutions; a market in fast evolution.
As we turned to the Americas, São Paulo also explored what the transition means for corporate leadership and culture, as well as looking at how science-based targets through SBTI expertise are not only helping corporates to unite behind a common language and goals, but also bringing wider business benefits such as helping to mitigate climate-related risks and supporting talent retention.
Clean tech and renewable solutions
Events taking place across EMEA also put the spotlight on renewables, with Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Milan and Brussels putting hydrogen front and centre of securing a sustainable and secure European economy. From infrastructure to logistics, discussions revealed a number of challenges ahead to rapidly scale up the green hydrogen economy while highlighting its huge potential as a decarbonised energy vector that can be easily transported and stored in large quantities.
London, meanwhile, dived into clean tech, spotlighting three start-ups taking part in the Tech Nation 3.0 programme and their pioneering sustainable solutions: Cercula, Signol and Agreed Earth. In Paris, we heard from a panel focusing on start-up investments made by the Solar Impulse Venture Fund such as Phenix, an impact tech start-up using innovative technology to transfer unsold food items from those who have excess to those who don’t have enough – and saving 12,000 meals a day. Both Tech Nation and the Solar Impulse Foundation are initiatives partnered by BNP Paribas.
A world of biodiversity
According to the World Economic Forum, 50% of the world’s GDP is highly dependent on nature. In London, we heard about the critical importance of biodiversity and nature-based solutions. This included featuring speakers from the Green Finance Institute and Tikehau Capital as well as Strutt & Parker, part of BNP Paribas Real Estate, whose rural business puts sustainability and natural capital at its heart. Setting commitments to become nature-positive emerged as a critical theme – along with the data, metrics, disclosure and blended de-risked funding models of catalytic capital needed to get there.
Lisbon, meanwhile, focused on the oceans, with speakers from Fundação Oceano Azul and Euronext Lisboa discussing the immense potential of the blue economy to meet the world’s challenges – from climate change to energy and food security, and medical care – while underlining the critical economic transformation needed to ensure its conservation and restoration.
The diverse range of themes discussed across the Sustainable Future Forum highlights the complexity of the ecosystems, partnerships and actions needed to achieve net zero by 2050, while bringing delegates back to a very simple message, summarised by Katerina Elias Trostmann, Head of ESG & Sustainable Finance, BNP Paribas Brazil: “We must act now. The cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action.”
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