International financial community gets wake-up call from UNEP head

The international financial community has been urged to abandon its "wait-and-see" attitude towards investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. These are not "just niche investments, but key components of secure energy systems based on truly sustainable forms of energy," says Klaus Toepfer, head of the United Nation's Environment Programme (UNEP). He delivered his wake-up call to more than 600 bankers, financiers and members of the financial sector meeting in Tokyo. Two of the world's most pressing issues -- energy security and climate change -- will not be solved "by the mindset that created them," Toepfer admonished. Launching the UNEP Sustainable Energy Finance Initiative (SEFI), he called on delegates to abandon the "fossil fuel business-as-usual" approach, arguing that a new "climate for change" towards sustainable forms of energy to power the global economy is required. Toepfer says he understands the hesitation of financiers. While sustainable energy technologies such as wind have advanced rapidly, transaction costs and market uncertainty has led most financiers to "wait-and-see." This is compounded by an overall lack of information, experience and the tools needed to quantify, mitigate and hedge project and financial product risks. With support from the United Nations Foundation, SEFI will "help mainstream financiers overcome these barriers," promises Toepfer. "If the billions of dollars to be invested in new energy infrastructure in the next two decades follows the fossil fuel business-as-usual mindset, the resulting serious and irreparable environmental and social harm could dramatically affect the health of human societies, economies and the ecosystems on which they depend," he warns.