PAGE Holds 2nd Dialogue in Series ‘One UN for Accelerating a Fair and Green Economic Transformation’ on Sustainable Finance

On 2 November 2021, PAGE held the second dialogue of its series, “One UN for Accelerating a Fair and Green Economic Transformation” on 2 November 2021.  Following the first dialogue on green recovery, this second event focused on sustainable finance, and more than 70 colleagues from across the UN system — including UN Resident Coordinators (UNRCs), the Director of UNEP's Economy Division, the Heads of UNDP and UNEP finance programmes, members of the PAGE Management Board, representatives of regional commissions and the Development Coordination Office (DCO), Economists from UN RCOs and from PAGE agencies, among others — actively participated in the dialogue, and exchanged ideas for supporting UN Country Teams . Additionally, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist, UN DESA Elliott Harris moderated the discussion with keynote presentations from Liesel Van Ast, Membership and Regional Co-ordination Manager of the UNEP Finance Initiative and Marcos Neto, Director of the UNDP SDG Finance Sector Hub.  

See the presentation: UNDP: Linking Finance with Impact

See the presentation: UNEP-FI: Mobilizing Private Finance for Sustainable Development

As a primary objective, the dialogue aimed to strengthen ties and collaboration between PAGE partner countries and UN RCO’s Economists on sustainable financeThe discussion shed light on particular challenges in the enabling environment and identified potential areas of work on sustainable finance in PAGE partner countries to support their transitions to fairer and greener economies.  

“Unsustainable investments are no longer profitable and certainly nowhere near as profitable as sustainable ones. But for that to happen, we need a shift in mindset.” 

– Elliot Harris, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Chief Economist (UN DESA)  

The UN system offers unique expertise to respond to countries’ need for mobilizing finance needed to achieve the ambitions for a green and inclusive recovery from COVID-19 impacts and for long-term economic transformation. To support governments with the implementation of the Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs)already 15 agencies are working together across 71 countries, helping to strengthen planning processes, and overcome existing impediments to finance the SDGs at the country level.

We are looking for systemic alignment, we are looking for systematic changes and not transaction by transaction anymore. And to systemically change you need to bring the SDGs to the financial sector.” 

– Marcos Neto, Director, Finance Sector Hub (UNDP)

The case of Thailand, presented during the event, provides an example of mobilizing sustainable finance and financing the SDGs at the country level through key UN action areas: 

  • Leading high-level engagement and dialogue with key country financial institutions and government agencies including Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Thailand. This involves key international actors such as the ADB, IMF and World Bank. 

  • Catalyzing commitment from financial institutions and investors to note the UN’s Principles of Responsible Investment and Banking as the framework of operations (e.g., “Statement of Commitment for Sustainable Thailand”). 

  • Strengthening the capacity of national actors (e.g., information sessions on UN sustainable finance principles) 

  • Facilitating joint delivery by the UN 
    UNEP and UNDP are exploring how the INFF can be connected to the efforts in developing the Thai green taxonomy as well as how to align the work on an INFF with the Principles for Responsible Banking. 

See the presentation: Joining Forces on Sustainable Finance: Thailand

Thailand’s 2021 Common Country Analysis on financial landscape and opportunities identified that to achieve the SDGs will require investments and spending across a range of public and private resources 

“Thailand is exploring how the integrated national financing framework can be connected to the central banking force in developing Thai green taxonomy and how to align the work on the integrated national financing framework with the Principles for Responsible Banking. This is the joint work that PAGE can help to offer more sustainable finance in Thailand.” 

– Manop Udomkerdmongkol, UNRCO Economist Thailand 

This will be done through government expenditure, new flows of private capital and investment flows towards new innovative products and services focused on finding solutions to achieve the SDGs including low-carbon infrastructure, clean energy, green bonds, green real estate and sustainable forestry and agriculture. 

Other flagship examples in the UN system come from several UN Agencies in supporting countries to finance sustainable development. One initiative from UNDP is the development of the SDG Impact platform to inform investors on decision-making in investments for SDGs, produce data and insights needed for increasing financial flows to the SDGs, and facilitate collaboration to realize investments. UNEP FI is working with financial institutions to integrate sustainability into their strategies to align with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, as well as with policymakers to drive systemic change to create enabling policy environments for sustainable finance. 

"We need to be looking at the systemic change.... We have to look to see how the Resident Coordinator system can work with the countries to be able to create that systemic shift in terms of both public and private finance opportunities that exist." 

– Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director, Economy Division (UNEP) 

Acting as a channel to deepen the engagement between PAGE and UN Economists, the forum will also inform how PAGE can better support its partner countries in using their economic recovery planning as a steppingstone for green and inclusive economic transformation to address the root causes of the Triple Planetary Crisisas well as further inspire a green and inclusive transition globally.  

Overall, these dialogues will aid in PAGE’s dedication to working in cohesion at the country-level, leveraging its inter-agency expertise and eliminating the duplication of efforts.  The  series is planned to continue on a quarterly basis throughout 2022, offering a dedicated platform for UN economists and agencies to exchange ideas on greening the economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and to share best practices. 

“To mobilize the flows of cash to sustainable development in our strategy for the next three years is to work on institutional change, so helping the financial institutions to integrate sustainability into their strategies, it's really become about alignment, aligning the financial institutions and their portfolios with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.” 

-Liesel Van Ast, Membership and Regional Co-ordination Manager (UNEP FI) 

Read the full meeting report: 

Financing the Transformation to a Fair and Green Economy