Building Bridges: The antechamber to COP31 in Switzerland
By Patrick Odier. Frmr Senior Managing Partner of Lombard Odier Group
Hosting the COP in 2026 would be a real project for Switzerland and the Swiss. It would also be an opportunity to innovate by proposing a more reasonable format adapted to environmental constraints and by better targeting the agenda on subjects in which Switzerland has particular expertise.
Concrete commitments for more impact
The 3rd edition of Building Bridges showed the way forward. Indeed, this international event gathered in Switzerland during four days, from October 3 to 6, 2022, more than 2000 participants from 51 countries and nearly 16,000 people connected to follow or participate in the 68 events of the program.
In fact, Building Bridges could represent a step in the preparation of a Swiss bid for the COP in 2026. Taking advantage of Switzerland's unique ecosystem, Building Bridges has brilliantly succeeded, with the support of our federal authorities, in bringing together actors from finance, international organizations, universities, NGOs, the public and private sectors and civil society towards a common sustainable goal.
Beyond good intentions, all these actors have mobilized to make concrete commitments to accelerate the sustainable transition. Thus, several initiatives already announced during the second edition of Building Bridges in 2021 have been launched: notably the "Swiss climate scores", adopted by the Federal Council in June 2022. They do not measure a company's ESG criteria, but its alignment with the carbon emission reduction target set by the Paris Agreements. In addition, many financial players are in the process of transforming their clients' portfolios according to their sensitivity to these sustainable issues.
Finance: an important lever to accelerate the transition
This year, two new organizations dedicated to solutions to save nature were announced at Building Bridges: Nature- Finance and Innovante for Finance. But we need to do more in terms of education, common language, political will, and investment to make a bigger impact faster.
Despite these real advances, progress is indeed not fast enough. In particular, the systems for rating companies to sort out and direct capital towards the most virtuous ones must be clearer and based on scientific and transparent foundations. But let's make no mistake, finance is not all-powerful. It can accompany, help and stimulate companies in their transition to a more sustainable economy, but it cannot replace industrial activity or government legislation. Let's not ask finance to say what is allowed or forbidden, nor to judge whether it is reasonable or not to use snow cannons at an altitude of 2000 meters. These choices must be made, argued and debated by the competent authorities.
Finance cannot and should not be the sole bearer of what are societal choices. Indeed, the financial sector desperately needs the leadership and ambition of policy makers and the real economy to have more impact. One of the challenges of COP27, which opens in early November in Egypt, will be the ability of political leaders to resist the temptation of short-term political gain, i.e., to focus on the political, economic and environmental benefits that could be reaped in years, not weeks.
Collective unpreparedness for extreme weather events, as well as unprecedented global anxiety about energy, food and commodity security, argue for a radical leap forward in the race to realign our economic system with the limits of our planet.
The current economic growth model, with its significant collateral damage, must be rethought with the help of financial actors and all stakeholders. This is what Building Bridges is all about and it shows that this is possible. But Switzerland can and must aim higher, in the momentum of this event which has now proven its relevance.
Our country enjoys an unparalleled reputation in multilateralism, thanks to its diplomatic agility, its UN heritage and its neutrality. What has been accomplished in Switzerland in the service of humanitarian action and diplomacy is a universal reference. By hosting the COP in 2026, Switzerland would be in its place, at the center of the dialogue, to help ensure the necessary sustainable transition. ■
Source: Le temps.24.10.2022 www.letemps.ch Reprinted with permission of the author Patrick Odier