On the 8th November 2019, EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and EU Ministers of ECOFIN (Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), met in Brussels, and discussed the economic, financial and political situation in Europe, with emphasis on green investments and sustainable finance (https://www.efta.int/About-EFTA/news/Annual-EFTA-ECOFIN-meeting-focuses-sustainable-finance-515501).
With climate change, the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, the Paris Agreement to combat climate change, and the increasing awareness regarding sustainability, EFTA and EU countries recognise that the financial sector can play an important role in addressing this challenge (https://www.efta.int/sites/default/files/documents/about-efta/EFTA-Ecofin-Common-Paper-2019.pdf).
The increasing demand for sustainable investments represents a strong incentive for financial market players to offer sustainable products and may, to a certain extent, lead to the promotion of industry-driven standard setting within the financial industry.
To promote sustainable investments and to stamp out the so-called ‘greenwashing’, it is important to develop a common understanding of sustainability in the financial market and to establish common definitions or standards.
The EFTA States observe the efforts of the EU in developing a common taxonomy, for sustainable economic activities, by end of the year, hoping to integrate inputs from industry and international organisations, which could play a coordinating role (https://www.ft.com/content/66b3a50a-0432-11ea-a984-fbbacad9e7dd?desktop=true).
With this in mind, the EU aims to revolutionise the world of green finance, and more importantly, wants to become the first supranational regulator to write rules that banks and funds, will have to comply with when they claim to launch “green” products or investments.
The pivotal role of taxonomy is suitably depicted by what the EU Commission Vice-President, Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis, describes it as the “single most important piece of legislation” aimed at the markets that can help governments meet global emission targets.
However, there are many concerns concerning countries, such as France, which has big nuclear business interests, and therefore, doesn’t want the taxonomy to stigmatise nuclear as a “brown” technology.
Also, industry-led initiatives can contribute to transparency, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, and adequate transparency on the sustainability of investments will play a crucial role for profit-seeking investors, who are seeking investments that are profitable in a low-carbon economy (https://www.efta.int/sites/default/files/documents/about-efta/EFTA-Ecofin-Common-Paper-2019.pdf).
On the 18th October 2019, the EU, the Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, along with the relevant authorities from Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Kenya and Morocco, launched the International platform on sustainable finance (IPSF) in the presence of IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-finance/green-finance_en#ipsf).
The objective of the IPSF is to scale up the mobilisation of private capital towards environmentally sustainable investments and is a forum to strengthen international cooperation for private investors to identify and seize environmentally sustainable investment opportunities globally.