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UNEP's Fourth International Roundtable Meeting on Finance and the Environment Cambridge, 17 to 18 September, 1998

Cambridge, UK/Nairobi, 16 September 1998 - The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Mr. Klaus Toepfer and the Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher, MP and Minister of Environment, United Kingdom, will be among the keynote speakers who will address some 200 representatives of leading financial institutions from around the world. The meeting is taking place in Cambridge from 17 to 18 September to discuss major environmental challenges of concern to the financial sector.

The UNEP Financial Institutions Initiative Fourth International Roundtable Meeting on Finance and the Environment will consider a wide range of topical issues under the theme "Profitability and Responsibility in the 21st Century."

"There is now a clear realization that sustainable development will not, and cannot, be achieved by governments acting alone," said UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer. "We need the cooperation and expertise of the private sector if we are to combat critical issues such as the very real threat and implications of climate change," he said.

In 1991, UNEP embarked on a unique partnership with the private sector. The banking and insurance sectors are a part of this partnership. From this was borne the set of principles that are now enshrined within the Financial Institutions Initiative, whose members range from commercial banks and multi-lateral development banks to venture capitalists. The initiative promotes the integration of environmental considerations into all aspects of the financial sector's operations and services.

"HSBC Holdings plc (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp.) welcomes this meeting of prominent financial institutions and other valued supporters of UNEP," stated Mr. Charles Crowe, the Bank's Legal Adviser. HSBC has been one of the most vocal and ardent supporters of the UNEP Initiative over the last number of years. "We look forward to exploring the opportunities available to us and our customers in promoting good environmental practice and good business," he added.

High on the agenda in Cambridge will be the issue of climate change.
The Fourth Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina, later this year. The COP will create the framework for emissions trading, and develop further the Clean Development Mechanism as future economic instruments that will bring environmental and economic benefit.
It is expected that a position paper from the financial services sector will be endorsed at this week's meeting.

"The next twelve months will be a time of great change and uncertainty on the world stage as the outline of the principles sketched out at Kyoto become clearer. The finance sector has a global reach, and with it global accountability. We have to work out our own role in this debate and I believe that membership of the Initiative will help us all as we grapple with that task," advises Linda Descano, Chair of the Steering Committee to the Financial Institutions Initiative and Vice President Environmental Affairs, Salomon Smith Barney.

"The financial services sector has an interest in sustaining the biosphere's capability to regenerate life without which economic activity would be impossible," said Toepfer. "We urgently need the contribution of the financial services sector as we all strive towards creating workable mechanisms to deal with climate change. I hope that moving forward from this point the sector will commit itself to the success of such economic instruments," he said.

During the Roundtable, the findings of a second global survey on implementation of the 'UNEP Statement by Financial Institutions on Environment and Sustainable Development' will be released. The statement commits signatories to incorporating environmentally sound practices into their operations. There are currently 115 signatories.

For more information please contact:

Hussein Abaza, Chief / Mike Kelly, Coordinator
UNEP Financial Institutions Initiative
Economics, Trade and Environment Unit, Geneva
tel: +41-22-979.9288/178, fax: +41-22-796.9240,

In Nairobi, contact:
Tore Brevik,
Director of Information and Public
Affairs on tel. (+254-2) 623292, or Robert Bisset on tel. (+254-2) 623084,
fax. (+254-2) 623692,

UNEP Web Site:

UNEP News Release 1998/94

Friday 18 Sep 1998
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