Critical theme: How can the financial system serve a green and inclusive economy?

Critical theme
A series of seminars at the International Institute for Environment and Development focusing on financial themes began on May 15 with a discussion addressing the relationship between financial systems and the green economy.
Nick Robins makes a Critical Theme presentation to IIED staff in May 2014 (Photo: Matt Wright/IIED)

Nick Robins makes a Critical Theme presentation to IIED staff in May 2014

Nick Robins, co-director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, discussed "How can the financial system serve a green and inclusive economy?" and his full presentation can be found on IIED's SlideShare platform and below.

Although most national and international strategies for sustainable development have not touched directly on the 'rules of the game' that govern the USD 300 trillion in assets in global financial markets, this is changing. The global financial crisis has revealed the dysfunctionality of the current financial system, while planetary boundaries pose a new generation of risks for markets that are characterised by structural short-termism. Policy innovation is starting, most notably in a number of developing countries introducing 'green credit policies'.

In the seminar, Robins outlined the rationale behind UNEP's new Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, which has been tasked to deliver policy recommendations in 2015 that could help underpin the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement.

An early member of IIED's Sustainable Markets Group, he has worked since 2000 in the City, most recently as head of HSBC's climate change centre.

IIED's previous Critical Theme took place in March 2014, when Pavan Sukhdev, the founder and chief executive officer of GIST Advisory, a specialist consulting firm that helps governments and corporations discover, measure, value and manage their impacts on natural and human capital, discussed the importance of meaningful stakeholder reporting.

His visit was organised as part of a strategic review of environmental economics by the institute, with expert speakers invited to attend a ­­­­series of seminars to challenge thinking on economic issues, and answer questions and engage in an open forum that encourages dialogue and debate.

Sony Kapoor, the Managing Director of international think tank Re-Define, and Eric Beinhocker, the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking's research program, have also visited IIED's Gray's Inn Road office this year. Kapoor discussed how to best connect the financial and economic policy-making community to the environmental agenda, while Beinhocker's presentation, Escaping the Malthusian Trap, focused on emerging research that describes the economy as an evolving complex system.

Last year, Jesper Stage, Professor of Economics at Mid-Sweden University and a former IIED International Fellow, gave a presentation titled Better indicators than GDP? Yes, but better at what?, and Kate Raworth, Senior Visiting Research Associate with the Environmental Change Unit at Oxford University and a Visiting Fellow in Economics at IIED, presented Rewriting economics for the 21st century.

Find here more details on the Critical Themes series.

Additional resources

In autumn 2013, IIED contracted independent consultants Olof Drakenberg and Anders Ekbom to review the contribution of environmental economics and economics to IIED's work. Read the full report.

Search through IIED's publications related to economics.

More information on IIED's economics work: