Amid the worsening climate crisis and extreme weather phenomena, nations worldwide have been impacted, at varying degrees, by devastating natural disasters. Though a small city, Hong Kong must be a part of the global climate conversation. September’s “once-in-a-century” rainstorm raised red flags: we must work closely with the global community in seizing fresh opportunities to combat climate change. The World Green Organisation’s (WGO’s) “ESG for Climate Actions International Conference 2023” invited global experts to engage in encompassing dialogue on green finance, low-carbon technology, climate policies and the opportunities and challenges of carbon markets. Taking place at Cyberport on 30 and 31 October, the WGO flagship event’s fourth iteration marked a great leap forward in the global conversation on climate change, thanks to the support of dozens of policymakers, corporate giants, academics and sustainability experts.
In an effort to realise the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forward by the United Nations in 2015 and to help accelerate the global shift to low-carbon economies, the WGO has kept pace with its progress, and is honoured to have received the support of its conference partners – the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia (ESCAP), Cyberport, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), the Financial Services Development Council and the IFRS Sustainability Alliance. We were privileged to have United Nations ESCAP Environment and Development Division Director Dr. Sangmin Nam, Under Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Mr. Joseph Chan, JP, Securities and Futures Commission Chairman Mr. Tim Lui, HKEX Head of Carbon and ESG Products Market Mr. Ken Chiu, Financial Services Development Council Vice Chairman Mr. Daniel Fung, Cyberport CEO Mr. Peter Yan, JP and local consul generals from Spain, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos officiate at the opening ceremony alongside WGO CEO Dr. William Yu and WGO President & ASEAN Economic Club Co-Chair Mr. Albert Oung.
Comprising panel discussions and seminars, the conference examined the development of global carbon markets, sustainable development, ESG investment strategies, the application of low-carbon technology and more. Financial experts, economists and financial officials from the world over, including China, Southeast Asia, Europe, delivered unique insights as guest speakers and engaged with attendees, uniting stakeholders against the mammoth challenge, climate change. Hong Kong companies that played key roles in the discussions included Crystal International Group Limited, King’s Flair, Sun Life Hong Kong Limited, the Asian Corporate Coalition for Climate Change, BOC Group Life Assurance Company Limited, CS Tech Solution Limited, Ex-0 Infinity International Co. Ltd, Global Leaders Corporation, the Greater Bay Area Sustainability Institute, Negawatt Utility Limited, Hewlett Packard, The Hong Kong and China Gas Company, Worldwide Envision Centre, BDO Hong Kong, Power Assets Holdings Limited (Hong Kong Electric), GuangDong JunPin Law Firm, The International Chamber of Sustainable Development, Eco Smart and Riskory Consultancy Limited, among others.
Promoting green finance has dominated global discourse – particularly during a year plagued by record-breaking heatwaves worldwide. The speakers shared the consensus that accelerating the development of carbon markets was imperative: carbon markets have grown in popularity in recent years, presenting corporates with opportunities for green development, and playing a major role in the global transition towards low-carbon economies. As we set the wheels in motion, we must seize the generous opportunities for growth that accompany carbon neutrality targets. That includes proactively developing carbon markets and creating more carbon finance and climate-related products. Corporations worldwide must speed up the design and implementation of carbon management strategies. Complemented by ESG measures, such strategies should push corporations closer to their net-zero emissions goals by 2050, and, ultimately, realising the UN’s vision.
The Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau has been an avid supporter of the conference. In his speech, Under Secretary Joseph Chan noted that ESG has become the driving force in global green economies “As an international financial centre that enjoys the strong support of the Motherland and close connection with the world, Hong Kong is obligated to push for green finance. Following the success of the Bureau’s fintech ‘Proof-of-Concept’ subsidy scheme, next year, the government will be launching another subsidy scheme for green finance technology. The latest Policy Address has also stated that Hong Kong will harness opportunities within the Greater Bay Area to reinforce engagement between the financial markets, and encourage the exploration of synergies between fintech and talent and green finance.” Chan reiterated that the government of the HKSAR acknowledges its role in combating climate change with the rest of the world, and has been working to reduce carbon emissions for a carbon-neutral Hong Kong, and as a contribution to the Motherland’s carbon dioxide peaking and carbon neutrality goals.
Meanwhile, Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) Chairman Tim Lui said that the SFC, along with HKEX, has spared no effort in promoting green finance and ESG development in Hong Kong. “Earlier this year, the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) issued the IFRS S1 and IFRS S2 – standards that require companies to disclose sustainability-related risks and opportunities in their financial reports. In July, HKEX completed a round of consultations on the new standards, and plans to apply them to listed companies with a phasing-in approach.” Expressing confidence, Lui said that the arrangement would send a clear, comprehensive and consistent message to Hong Kong’s financial market and improve corporate governance. He believes it would also bolster the legitimacy of ESG-related messages, and, consequently, public confidence and that of overseas and local investors, as well as strengthen Hong Kong’s position as a green financial centre. Lui emphasised that the SFC has long had in place measures to reduce its own carbon emissions and promote collaboration on the city’s journey to becoming a green economy.
Dr. Sangmin Nam, Director of the United Nations ESCAP Environment and Development Division and a first-time participant, said, “Post-pandemic climate change demands the undivided attention of the global community. As global warming intensifies, so does the need to reduce carbon emissions. Yet, challenges remain, especially among developing Asia-Pacific countries who lack the resources and capital to combat climate change. To achieve our net-zero emissions target, countries will have to work together, with prosperous economies lending support while cutting emissions.”
WGO CEO Dr. William Yu stressed the importance of developing green finance “Hong Kong’s ‘once-in-a-century’ rainstorm has left a lasting impression. Climate change threatens the survival of mankind and hinders the development of different countries. We must act now. Realising our net-zero emissions target in 30 years could cost millions and will certainly pose a financial burden. But this shouldn’t be a reason to stall. Setting up a robust global carbon market framework could stabilise carbon pricing and increase stakeholder know-how and skills – and carbon markets will eventually reveal their success.”
Dr Yu added, “Mitigating climate change is a pressing mission for the long haul. Countries must persevere together. Over the past two days, global experts came together to discuss measures to tackle climate change – a significant step towards reducing emissions. I hope the conference can inspire stakeholders from different sectors and inform bold carbon reduction solutions as we shape a brighter sustainable future.”
World Green Organisation
The World Green Organisation (WGO) is an independent non-governmental organisation concerned with environmental conservation and environmentally related livelihood and economic affairs. We aim to improve the economy, the environment and people’s living through science-based public policies and comprehensive community projects, helping all sectors especially the grassroots to meet the challenges and implement the vision of sustainable development. For more information about our organisation, please view our website: https://www.thewgo.org/
For ESG for Climate Actions International Conference 2023, please visit: https://wgo.org.hk/unf/