Right at the end of 2016, membership of the EU’s new High Level Group on Sustainable Finance was announced. As one of the Group’s members I want to share a few personal reflections here on the Group and opportunities and challenges ahead.
Of the 20 members, seven are British and four French. This reflects the strong thought leadership on green and sustainable finance issues coming from the UK and France over the past months and years. All credit to the European Commission team that despite Brexit looming, British views are still valued in such strategically important discussions. In addition, of the Group, five organisations are NGOs and one academic – demonstrating a strong public interest focus to the work. An excellent Chair, Christian Thimann – Group Head of Regulation, Sustainability and Insurance Foresight at AXA, has been appointed. He has a background both in central banking and private finance. He was also a Vice-Chair of the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and so has a well informed and broad view of both the challenges and the opportunities ahead.
As well as the members, observers have also been appointed drawn from public and central banks, key European institutions and other experts. They will provide important context and provide additional expertise to the Group. All key DGs (FISMA, CLIMA, ENVI, ENER, JUST) are involved in this work.
At our first kick-off meeting in January, the Group agreed its work would be as open and inclusive as possible. That said, it was also agreed that for the initiative to be successful, a safe space for idea exchange and frank discussion must be created. While this means the work will proceed on a basis of confidentiality, it was agreed that high level minutes will be published after each meeting as well as an interim report for consultation. E3G very much welcomes this open and consultative approach.
My personal reflections are that we have a lot of work ahead of us – but that the Group has a strong and comprehensive view of the challenges and opportunities. It is also highly committed to delivering an ambitious and pragmatic set of recommendations within the next year. The Group is also very timely, since it creates a place for the EU to formally consider the FSB Task Force’s recommendations on Climate-related Financial Disclosures: there was a risk that otherwise this work would have ‘got lost’. E3G along with CDSB, WWF, CDP and IIRC have already presented a formal view to Vice President Dombrovskis and to the Group setting out how we think the EU’s impending Guidelines for implementing the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (which are yet to be published) should be adapted to be a stepping stone to implement the FSB Taskforce recommendations.
Much work lies ahead, but watch out for publication of the interim report (due in June) that will set out early conclusions and will be open for consultation responses.