Sustainability will be the top topic at Singapore’s Fintech Festival

World currencies

This article was originally published on Thursday, 7 November 2019 at 21:06 SGT. 

Sustainability appears set to lead discussions at Singapore’s Fintech Festival this year, as attendees both confront the necessity of addressing climate change and look for ways to cash in on going green.

The Fintech Festival comes on the heels of the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency” report, by 11,258 scientists across 153 countries and a myriad of different disciplines. That report “clearly and unequivocally” labels climate change an emergency.

Financing Asia’s shift toward a greener future won’t be cheap: Southeast Asia is estimated to need around US$200 billion annually through 2030, while China would need US$450 billion to US$600 billion annually to reach its green policy goals, according to research from DBS Bank and the U.N.

One of the opening speakers, Singapore’s Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, will be presenting on green finance. Singapore has aimed to become a center for the issuance of green bonds.

In a speech in October, Jacqueline Loh, deputy managing director at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said that Asia accounted for nearly US$50 billion of green bond issuance in 2018, or around 30 percent of the global US$168 billion issued.

At the conference, the topics up for discussion include the catastrophic impacts of climate change — and how the financial industry can address them.

Those topics will range from how insurers will need to include climate change in their forecasts, to how fintechs can use technology to help measure the climate risks, assist with sustainable investment decisions and develop sustainable financing options.

Large investors, including Temasek, UBS, AXA, Allianz and Bain & Co., will be discussing how they build sustainable portfolios — a process they call a “trillion dollar opportunity.”

The conference itself is upping its game on sustainability, with steps including not offering plastic straws and asking attendees to bring their own reusable water bottles for refills.

The conference will also discuss how fintechs can address the unbanked — people who do not use financial institutions in any capacity and use cash for all transactions — while making the financial system more inclusive.

Around 69 percent of adults globally, or around 3.8 billion people, now have a bank account or a mobile-money provider, up from just 51 percent in 2011, according to the World Bank’s Global Findex report for 2018. Having a bank account is considered a crucial step in escaping poverty.

Around 1.7 billion adults globally remain unbanked, the report said, but noted around two-thirds of them having mobile phones, which could help them access financial services.

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