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GEP Toptalk| GEP students talked with Mr. Satya S. Tripathi, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations

On August 14, 2022, Mr. Satya S. Tripathi, former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, former Head of Sustainable Finance of the United Nations Environment Programme, Secretary-General of the Global Alliance for Sustainable Planet, was invited to Top Talk of Global Environment Programme. Taking resources and finance as the starting point, he shared the environmental challenges faced by the world today and our actions with the students online.

Mr. Satya S. Tripathi first shared the current state in terms of the global commons, which is land, water and air, which is more popularly known as public goods, and how it is playing out across the planet.

Millions of acres of land are facing forest fires due to the drop of humidity in air, posing threats not only to animals but also to human beings by high levels of pollution emission. A majority of UN members share a water body, which keeps us alive, keeps the balance of geopolitical reality and social harmony. However, as water availability falls, more people are leaving areas that are without water. When it comes to the air, global warming and air pollution has levied a heavy burden, causing huge economic losses.

Given the state of the global commons or the public goods, Mr. Satya S. Tripathi talked about what do we need to do.

The Paris Agreement of 2015 won't save us from global warming because most countries are lagging behind in terms of the commitments they made and what they have delivered. We are heading towards over 3.2 degrees rise by the end of the century, a temperature where you can't quantify the risks anymore and the whole world becomes uninsurable.

Finance is another problem. The Paris Agreement promised $100 billion a year in aid by 2020. But the actual amount was just one fourth of that number. The biggest challenge is that there is no money being put forward, but everybody sadly believes that we can actually keep fudging the numbers. It happens at all levels, including the country level and the corporate level. Corporations come together and promise things. They speak the right language with the wrong intent, and there is no desire to act, just to talk about it.

Mr. Satya S. Tripathi urged all countries to act. The problems created by 8 billion people must eventually be solved by 1 billion people. He called for actions to change our behaviors, to switch our consumption and production patterns and to start tackle the problem, but also warned us to bear three foundational issues in mind in the face of these situations.

Firstly, there is an inequity in the way that carbon emissions and carbon emissions per capita are currently calculated. Current carbon emissions are calculated based on the emissions of a country's manufacturing sector, while products made in one country may be consumed in other countries. Secondly, we need to recognise that the true measure of global warming is historical emissions rather than current emissions. Thirdly, to achieve the goal of keeping global temperatures within 2 degrees, the current situation is dire and we need to make dramatic changes.

Mr. Satya S. Tripathi then introduced us to ESG investments and carbon neutrality. In 2021, ESG-based exchange traded funds across the stock exchanges in the world reached an all time high of roughly $130 billion. And he pointed out that China and India, as developing countries, have a great challenge to achieve carbon neutrality by reducing energy consumption at the same time as development, compared to developed countries that have already achieved carbon peaking.

The students talked to Mr. Satya S. Tripathi about the qualities we need in sustainable finance, and Mr. Tripathi started by emphasizing the need to have a basic knowledge of the financial sector and to always be aware of managing risks. Innovative structures can be used in green investments, while maintaining good partnerships.