Why would a banker camp at Davos?

Sustainable finance is at a pivotal juncture. The industry needs to rapidly embrace new forms of collaboration with scientists to scale up climate action.

Gwen Yu, BNP Paribas’ Head of Engagement Transformation, camped at the Davos Arctic Basecamp in sub-zero temperatures to highlight the importance of understanding biodiversity impact, and why bridging climate science and finance perspectives are vital to tackling the climate crisis.

Here, she shares her experience of camping at Davos, her views on collaborating with scientists, and why Arctic melt matters.

You recently took part in the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF) 2021 virtual Arctic base camp show, what is that?
Gwen Yu: Arctic basecamp is this incredible intersection of the climate science community, business leaders, innovators, entertainers, climate activists, young entrepreneurs, and a wonderful selection of society who are all motivated and taking action to tackle climate change. 

“Science must chart the transition pathway towards a low carbon economy.”

BNP Paribas has been a supporter of Arctic Basecamp for a number of years, helping bring attention to the climate crisis and how finance is a part of the solution. Why have Artic Basecamp at Davos? Well, Davos has become a truly global meeting point for many of the world’s leading thinkers looking at issues like the climate crisis. Amongst this incredible scene is Arctic Basecamp with its diverse crew, keeping it real with an actual campsite in the snow, very similar to any what scientists have when they go on expeditions. This puts a spotlight on the melt taking place in the Arctic. It’s a way to bring science to power and get those in power to act now.

Last year I camped at the Davos Arctic Basecamp for five days in truly ‘arctic’ weather (also with my colleague Romain Le Creff). This year I was there again, but all online of course. One great benefit of the event being virtual was that I was able to be joined by colleagues from across the BNP Paribas Group to discuss the levers finance has to scale up climate action, including sustainable finance, coalitions, investments, policies and more. Importantly, the discussion this year was streamed live on YouTube to 45,000 people!

What was it like camping at Davos last year, and why did you do it?
G.Y: I have always believed (and tell my kids the same!) that you have to walk the talk. We as a bank believe in what the Arctic Basecamp is trying to do.

Through this huge mobilisation of stakeholders across regions, industries and expertise, the Arctic Basecamp is a unique collective community, which is at the forefront of a progressive democratic dialogue. I camped with Arctic ice experts, young climate activists, business leaders, explorers, and in the process learnt a lot about the importance of embracing various perspectives of the climate crisis. We cannot solve these issues alone. Bringing a variety of expert knowledge and community understanding is key to ensuring the transition to a low carbon economy is also inclusive.

Gwen Yu, BNP Paribas Head of Engagement Transformation camped with scientists at Arctic Basecamp in Davos

What exactly is the intersectionality between banking and climate science – especially when it comes to the Arctic ice melt?
: What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. As a bank, we have taken progressive action to ensure that the way we do financing also takes a conscious strategy to protect the environment. BNP Paribas took the decision to stop financing any oil or gas exploration or production projects in the Arctic region four years ago.

Science must chart the transition pathway towards a low carbon economy though. To scale up climate action towards the Paris Agreement means understanding the environmental impact of our lending. Coalitions are vital in this process, and through collaborating with the 2° Investing Initiative, UN Principles for Responsible Investment, and in a collaboration with four other banks, we developed PACTA (Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment). This is an open source methodology to measure the impact of lending portfolios, which covers the majority of high emission sectors. This has evolved to include twenty banks, and we are aiming to drive corporate loan books to align with various climate change scenarios.

Having an understanding about nature related risks and biodiversity requires harnessing the collective strength of coalitions too. This recently included our involvement in the Informal Working Group (IWG) of the Taskforce for Nature related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), which aims to progress the reporting, metrics, and data approaches and tools financial institutions need to use to understand impacts on nature.

What is the role of research in this space, and is the bank involved in any climate research projects?
: Supporting research on climate change and biodiversity is important in addressing these systemic environmental crises, as we have to understand the science behind the issues. As part of the BNP Paribas foundation, for over a decade the bank has financed the Climate & Biodiversity Initiative to provide €18 million for 27 scientific research projects. Awareness raising is a key part of this too, and through conferences, exhibitions and other public events the Foundation mobilises knowledge sharing between experts and communities.

BNP Paribas also works with the Tara Ocean Foundation’s research and exploration projects, through a collaboration with Neven Graillat, Head of the sustainable investment solutions structuring team and colleagues at the bank. Tara Ocean Foundation is a publically recognised foundation dedicated to the Oceans in France, with the objective to understand and protect oceans for preserving climate and life on earth. Understanding biodiversity and climate issues has been the core objective of the Tara Ocean Foundation for more than 15 years and the teams’ lead scientific expeditions across the globe, from the North Pole to European rivers.