“A game changer for Ireland” – That’s how the Irish Independent described the events of last Thursday – Sustainable Finance Day 2019 – when some of the world’s most senior figures in sustainable finance assembled in Dublin for a high-powered conference on climate finance and sustainability.
Convened by the Department of Finance and Sustainable Nation Ireland, this key event called ‘Catalysing Global Savings to Advance our Sustainability Goals’ represented the biggest gathering of leading international financial institutions and asset managers ever held in Ireland focused on this topic.
The ‘game-changer’ referred to by the Irish Independent was the decision by the World Bank to list a €1.5bn Sustainable Development Bond on the Irish Stock Exchange Euronext, its first 10-year bond since 2009 and the first World Bank Bond in Ireland in 25 years. The bond, raising €1.5bn from institutional investors around the globe, will finance sustainable development activities and engage investors with their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The headquarters of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has been the venue for the birth of many significant initiatives to benefit Ireland and its people, and last week’s events can certainly be added to that list, as the urgency to tackle climate change transitions from niche issue to a critical, mainstream priority.
As a demonstration of the importance of this moment for Ireland, the bond announcement made by George Richardson, a director of capital markets at the World Bank, was streamed live from Euronext Dublin (the Irish Stock Exchange) just after the opening bell. The listing of the bond was a huge boost to the efforts of the Government, supported by stakeholders including Sustainable Nation Ireland, to promote Ireland as a world-leading hub for sustainable finance in line with the ambition of the Government’s recently launched five-year plan for international financial services: Ireland for Finance.
With Ireland now adopting an ‘All of Government’ strategy to tackle the climate emergency, it was fitting that the event was attended by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. with no fewer than four of his ministers speaking: Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D.; Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton T.D.; Michael Darcy T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance; and Ciarán Cannon T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
The Taoiseach set the tone with his opening remarks in which he said the world’s financial systems needed to respond to climate change. “We need a climate revolution to change how private sector investment is channelled effectively. From now on, investment decisions must consider the urgent environmental imperative.”
To achieve the goal of making the EU carbon neutral by 2050, it will need to make an annual investment of at least €300 billion. “That volume of funding at the EU level means that private investment will be needed. Public money won’t be adequate,” Mr Varadkar told the audience of over 200 international delegates, 49 speakers and a large media turnout that included representatives from Reuters, Independent.ie, RTE, the Irish Times, Newstalk, Environmental Finance and The Times Ireland.
Stephen Nolan, Sustainable Nation Ireland, said that from an Irish and also global perspective, the decision by the World Bank to list its first bond in Dublin in 25 years was a highly significant moment for the entire agenda, building on Ireland’s expertise and leadership in sustainable finance.
“This is further evidence that Dublin is forging a reputation a leading global centre for sustainable finance. The World Bank bond aligns with the Irish Government’s key focus areas for development which includes prioritising climate action, as evidenced in the recently launched ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy.”
The World Bank Bond builds on some key Irish achievements to date: the National Treasury Management Agency issuing its first-ever green bond worth €3 billion; Ireland voting to become the first nation in the world to fully divest public money of fossil fuels; and Dublin being named the European headquarters of FC4S.
The event focused not just on the challenges we all face but also the very great opportunities on offer, this message was underscored by panellists and speakers throughout the day such as Dr. Paul Ryan, Department of Finance; Nancy Saich, European Investment Bank; Constance Chalchat, BNP Paribas; Mireille Martini, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; Kenneth Lay, former vice-president and treasurer of the World Bank Group; Stuart Kinnersley, Co-Founder and CEO, Affirmative Investment Management, and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Sharon Donnery. Her remarks about the impact of climate change on property values was the subject of the Times Ireland front page story the next day.
Organisations represented at the conference included the Asian Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, BlackRock, BNP Paribas, KPMG, SEB, S&P Global Ratings and the European Commission.
Sustainable Nation Ireland was also pleased to share the news that AIB will be lead private sector sponsor of Ireland’s second Climate Finance Week, taking place in November. The announcement was made by AIB’s CEO Colin Hunt and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, who said: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our generation. Meeting this challenge head on requires multiple partners across Government, industry, and further afield to work together to meet these challenges and transition Ireland to a low carbon economy…AIB’s important and timely sponsorship of Climate Finance Week 2019 is to be welcomed.” Colin Hunt, CEO of AIB, said that “the bank was working to ensure its work impacts everyone’s lives for the better. At AIB, we know one area where we can do this is through supporting Ireland’s programme to address climate change, helping to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. To do this we need to integrate climate change impact considerations across all our decision making, which is why we’re delighted to announce our sponsorship of Climate Finance Week Ireland 2019.”
So, all in all, it was a highly successful day in which the message from Dublin was made loud and clear through the prestigious list of attendees and extensive media attendance: Ireland has an “All of Government” approach to fighting climate change, and the world-class expertise in business and finance to help transition Ireland, Europe and the world to a low-carbon economy, an economy fit for future generations.