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Call for UN resolution on sustainable finance as Sustainable Development Goals agreed

Aviva CEO makes rare private sector address to General Assembly

Aviva Chief Executive Mark Wilson – in an address to the United Nations General Assembly convened to ratify the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – has called for a UN resolution on sustainable finance.

The meeting in New York on Friday agreed to the SDGs, a 17-point update of 2000’s Millennium Development Goals. The ambitious SDGs include 169 targets – such as the rationalization of “inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies” and the eradication of forced labour.

“Today I’ve got a simple ask: I would respectfully suggest the UN General Assembly targets 2017 to agree a resolution on sustainable finance,” Wilson said. Wilson’s speech is a rare example of a private sector speaker at the UN and he spoke amid world leaders such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Wilson explained that the resolution would set out the UN’s own roadmap for sustainable capital markets “which to date does not exist”. “I suggest we convene the best minds in the UN and finance to work out how to do this.”

Asked by RI about the appetite for such a resolution, Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors, acknowledged that “these things always seem impossible until they are done” and that the views of the PRI, UNEP, UNCTAD and the Global Compact would be particularly important.

He added there appeared to be considerable interest in the proposal among governmental, intergovernmental and non governmental institutions at the event.The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is currently sponsoring an Inquiry into the design of a sustainable financial system. The Inquiry will launch its final report “The Financial System we Need” at an IMF-World Bank meeting in Peru on October 8.

While Aviva, the UK-based insurance and asset management giant, supports the SDGs it believes they do not go far enough to correct what it sees as a “market failure” on sustainable developments. It has presented a report Mobilising Finance to Support the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The UNEP itself said the SDGs are “designed to put the world on a pathway to sustainability”.

At the summit, world leaders declared their commitment to “achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions — economic, social and environmental — in a balanced and integrated manner”.

The 17 SDGs and associated targets will be monitored and reviewed using a set of global indicators. The global indicator framework, to be developed by the Inter Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, will be agreed on by the UN Statistical Commission by March 2016.

One element of the process is that while the consensus reached on the SDGs “does not aim to anticipate or usurp” the role of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN nevertheless sees the agreement as sending a “strong signal” ahead of the key COP21 climate meeting in Paris in December.