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UNEP Finance Initiative seeking members in Egypt: Banking coordinator

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The United Nations Environment Programme works with financial institutions to develop environment-focused economic activities, Careen Abb says

The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Finance Initiative is currently looking for members in Egypt, banking coordinator for the initiative Careen Abb said, noting, however, that steps towards that aim have yet to be defined.

In an interview with the Daily News Egypt, Abb explained that the Finance Initiative, founded 22 years ago, is a partnership between UNEP and more than 200 financial institutions, ranging from banks to insurance and investment companies around the world. The initiative focuses on the role of institutions in creating a “more sustainable world”.

“The initiative addresses issues such as green lending and green finance, in addition to considering the impacts of environmental and social considerations on financial performance,” Abb detailed.

UNEP Finance Initiative is actively working to increase its members from African countries, she said. “We have a limited participation in the Middle East and North Africa region; we have member banks from Oman and Morocco.”

In cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Environmental Affairs, UNEP also initiated its Green Economy initiative in the country, which aims to perform economic activities with a less negative impact on the environment, said Abb.

Abb stated: “The first step of the initiative, which [involves] identifying the sectors who would benefit from the programme, is done, and what’s left is preparing the roadmap and programmes of implementing it,” she said.

The Green Economy concept was discussed in the sixth annual conference of the Egyptian Banking Institute (EBI), an affiliate of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), on 17 March, which focused on banking sustainability.

Abb said: “The conference was informative and designed to encourage and increase the awareness of the banking sector of the significance of sustainable banking… It was great to see an entire conference for that aim in Egypt”.

Abb added that, from a global angle, it is “interesting and important” to see governmental entities and financial regulators, like CBE and EBI, holding such an event to help banks identify the different elements of sustainability.

“It was a communication tool for banks to understand the mechanism and core areas of sustainable banking,” said Abb.

When asked whether she expects banks to be encouraged to participate in projects with an environmental perspective, Abb said that although the current available sectors for banks with that regard “may not be that large yet”, banks can participate in the usual economic activities with a “greener impact” on the society when compared to other projects.

Investing in the environment has a direct effect on populations, Abb said, explaining that investing in fields of water supply and quality, waste management and reducing pollution from manufacturing can be solutions that help boost a country’s economy.

Abb added that the interim government’s current review of using coal as an alternative source of energy to fuel and natural gas has been discussed in several countries; however, the government should consider “clean coal” options because “it is better to use the cleanest sources of energy”.

Commenting on Egypt’s plan to produce 20% of the country’s energy using new and renewable energy resources by 2020, Abb said: “Egypt is in the right direction.”


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