Can Sustainable Finance Catch-Up With Young People’s Sense of Urgency?

This post was originally posted in Linked-in on November 5, 2019

Last week, there were series of meetings on sustainable development and Sustainable Development Goals in Istanbul as Professor Jeffrey Sachs, head of UN SDSN was visiting town. I was at two of them; BCSD Turkey’s Sustainable Finance Meeting and SDSN Turkey’s meeting at Bogazici University.

It is always a pleasure to listen to Jeffrey Sachs; his messages are clear, his criticisms are direct and he always sides with future generations. The audience leaves with a what-to-do-list.

Here are a few of his messages that were important for me:

Messages on Sustainable Development:

· Mission of sustainable development is to make the world economy change directions

· Sustainable development tries to make world safe to live again and economy to work again

· World will address the climate change. The question is whether it will address it timely

· We have to find ways to make the economic progress inclusive, socially fair and environmentally sustainable

· There are six transformation challenges of sustainable development:

1) Education, inclusion, jobs and growth

2) Health and wellbeing

3) Clean energy and circular economy

4) Sustainable food and land use

5) Smart cities and transport

6) Digital technologies and e-governance

· To overcome these challenges, we need cooperation beyond the current politics on issues such as:

1) Technological pathways

2) Regional cooperation

3) Budget strategy and massive financing for the SDGs

4) Policy framework

5) Directed R&D

6) Metrics and monitoring

· These challenges need particular solutions for every region and country, including Turkey

Messages on Turkish Economy and the West Asia Region:

· Turkey will lose money if it invests money on coal

· Turkey will not be using coal in 30 years to come; so any investment now made, will be stranded asset

· Turkey should concentrate on ‘directed R&D’ to overcome two very important issues:

1) Decarbonizing the Turkish Economy

2) Cleaning Black Sea

Common challenges for the Turkey and West Asia Region:

1) Regional conflicts (specifically meddling of third countries in regional conflicts)

2) Desertification and being very vulnerable to climate change

3) De-carbonization

4) Education

5) Gender inequality

6) Science and technology

My take-aways:

· Number of instruments linked to sustainable development financing is increasing. Multinationals, development banks and private markets are all facilitating these instruments. Beyond green bonds, general-purpose loans linked to sustainable development goals are emerging. The trick for the companies is to show their commitment to specific targets of their own and their follow-up.

· Conditions on fosil-fuel financing is getting stricter; especially coal financing. It will not be surprising to see any new financing on coal on the sectorial sanction list in a few years time.

· All countries need to develop a clear matrix for their own goals. Prioritization will be necessary here.

· Question for Turkey should be ‘what does Turkey want to achieve via sustainable development goals in 10 years time?’

· Young people feel that the economic elites (both politicians and the business) are betraying them with their priorities and policy choices. They see both groups as the laggards

· Turkey (or any country for that matter) should develop its own mission-oriented sustainable development goals and make the public, and especially young people, own them

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