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Building Bridges: the COP31 lobby in Switzerland

Building Bridges: the COP31 lobby in Switzerland

Article published in Le Temps, 24 October 2022

Switzerland is poised to host COP31 in 2026, giving the country a unique opportunity to position itself at the centre of the global debate on the climate transition and sustainable finance. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is without doubt the ideal platform to showcase Switzerland’s pragmatic approach and to reorient our global economic growth model towards a sustainable transition. This would further strengthen the country’s international influence.

If Switzerland hosts the COP in 2026 there will be an opportunity to create a more reasonable format that is adapted to environmental constraints and to have an agenda that focusses on themes where Switzerland has particular expertise. The Federal Council is expected to make a decision in principle on whether to put forward Switzerland’s candidacy to host COP31 by early November 2022.

The third edition of Building Bridges paved the way forward. This international event brought together more than 2,000 participants from 51 countries and nearly 16,000 people connected to 68 online events in Switzerland, from 3 to 6 October in 2022.

In fact, Building Bridges could represent a clear step forward in the preparation of a Swiss bid for the COP in 2026. Taking advantage of Switzerland’s unique ecosystem, Building Bridges has succeeded brilliantly, with the support of federal authorities, in bringing together actors from finance, international organisations, academia, NGOs, the public and private sectors and civil society – to unite around a common sustainable goal.

Building Bridges could represent a clear step forward in the preparation of a Swiss bid for the COP in 2026

Concrete commitments for greater impact

Each of these actors have made concrete commitments to help accelerate the sustainable transition, and several initiatives announced at Building Bridges in 2021 have already been launched. For example, in June 2022, “Swiss climate scores” were adopted by the Federal Council. These scores do not measure a company’s ESG criteria but measure its alignment with the carbon emission reduction target set by the Paris Agreement. In addition, many financial players are transforming their clients’ portfolios based on these sustainability issues.

This year, two new organisations dedicated to finding solutions that will protect nature were announced at the conference: NatureFinance and Innovate for Finance. But we need to do more in terms of training, creating a common language, building political will and channelling investment in order to have more impact and to increase the pace of the transition.

[…] several initiatives announced at Building Bridges in 2021 have already been launched. For example, in June 2022, “Swiss climate scores” were adopted by the Federal Council

Finance: an important lever to accelerate the transition

Despite these genuine advances, we are not progressing quickly enough. In particular, the systems in place for rating companies, classifying them and directing capital towards the most virtuous must be clearer and must be based on scientific and transparent criteria. But let us make no mistake – finance is not all-powerful. It can accompany, assist 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 dictate what is permitted or forbidden, or, for instance, to judge whether it is reasonable or not to use artificial snow at a high altitude. These choices must be made, argued and debated by the correct authorities. 

Finance cannot and should not be the sole bearer of societal choices. In fact, the financial sector desperately needs the leadership and ambition of policy makers and the real economy to have more impact. COP27 begins in early November in Egypt but political leaders face the challenge of resisting the temptation of short-term political gain. Let’s hope they can focus their attention on the political, economic and environmental benefits that could be reaped in a few years as opposed to mere weeks.

Finance cannot and should not be the sole bearer of societal choices

Countries are woefully unprepared for extreme weather events and they are dealing with unprecedented global anxiety concerning energy, food and commodity security. These challenges only serve to highlight the need for a radical leap forward in the race to realign our economic system with the limits of our planet.

Read also: Forward: safe passage through the storm

Aiming higher: from Building Bridges to COP

Our 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. But Switzerland can and should aim higher, building on the momentum of this event, which has now proven its relevance.

Our country has an unparalleled reputation in multilateralism, thanks to its diplomatic agility, its UN heritage and its neutrality. What has been achieved in Switzerland in the service of humanitarian action and diplomacy should be seen as a universal reference. By hosting the COP in 2026, Switzerland would be at the heart of the dialogue to help ensure the transition to a sustainable economy. 

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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