Reaching the goals of the Paris agreement, and financing a sustainable, resource-efficient economy, requires a transformation of the whole financial system. Understanding that private-sector investments must be joined by a transformation of the regulatory landscape, the European Commission created the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance (HLEG) in December 2016. As the need for reform spans across all facets of the sector, HLEG members include experts from banking, insurance, asset management, stock exchanges and others. The group acknowledges that a sustainable society depends upon enduring and inclusive economic prosperity and that the financial system has a responsibility to drive change towards this sustainability. Thus, the HLEG aims to both promote sustainable investments, so that capital reaches sustainable projects and also to ensure that the financial system itself addresses risk and builds resilience.
After releasing an interim report and soliciting public feedback in July, the HLEG released its final recommendations for actions to facilitate this financial system reform. The report describes a set of priority recommendations and a set of “cross-cutting recommendations.” The former include developing an EU sustainability taxonomy, pushing investors to focus on ESG factors and consider broader time horizons, creating European sustainability standards for green bonds and other financing options, identifying investment needs by focusing first on climate mitigation, providing sustainable finance options for retail investors, and integrating sustainability into both the governance and financial oversight of financial institutions. The “cross-cutting” recommendations include embracing long-term vision, empowering citizens to shape a sustainable financial sector, monitoring sustainable investment and delivery, integrating a “Think Sustainability First” outlook throughout EU policy, and promoting global sustainable finance.
HLEG acknowledges that there are other social and environmental issues that must be addressed alongside climate change. Emphasizing that this report is only the beginning of an enduring effort to create a resilient financial system that supports a sustainable society, HLEG also states the report’s relevance for financial sectors worldwide. As “the HLEG hopes to stimulate a wide public debate that helps shift Europe’s financial system from post-crisis stabilization to supporting long-term growth,” that same widespread conversation is essential to driving global change.
For more resources on building a sustainable financial sector, read about Four Twenty Seven’s work providing the technical secretariat for an EBRD and GCECA initiative to build a resilient financial sector and download the GARI Investor Guide to Physical Climate Risk and Resilience.