Criticism of climate conference host country unjustified



Patrick Odier responds to those criticizing the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) for being hosted in an oil-producing country. “[Having everyone] around the table rather than excluding anyone is a much better way to go if we want to find solutions,” says the leader of the Swiss delegation at COP28 Finance Day.

The COP28 conference hosted in the United Arab Emirates is the 28th United Nations Climate Change conference. One day of the two-week event is called Finance Day. Patrick Odier is the chairman of the Building Bridges Platform, the president of Swiss Sustainable Finance and the chairman of the Supervisory Board at the private bank Lombard Odier.


Patrick Odier, what is your response to those criticizing the climate conference for being hosted in an oil-producing country?

Sustainability in itself is a very complicated matter. It took years to come up with a 1.5-to-2-degree Celsius limit, for good reason. So [having everyone] around the table rather than excluding anyone is a much better way to go if we want to find solutions that we will all be working towards in the future. The oil industry is an extremely important component of that equation because it is at the origin of one of the most damaging aspects of the current economic model that we are following. So its transformation – the industry's transformation in this respect – will be one of the most impactful solutions if well done. And that's why we want to sit together around the table with all stakeholders and not only some of them.


What role does, in your view, the finance industry play when it comes to the climate goals of the Paris Agreement? 

The financial industry, and capital in general, is one of the four most important levers of the sustainability transition. The first is consumption and production. The second is technology, which you depend on to transform. Third is policy and regulation. And fourth is capital that has to be allocated to the better solutions rather than the worse solutions when it comes to the sustainability transition of our global economic model. I think the financial sector plays a key role – together, of course, with industry, technology, and of course, civil society and regulators.


So beyond Swiss Sustainable Finance, what is the role of the Building Bridges platform?

Swiss Sustainable Finance is the top association regrouping all segments of the financial sector that are involved in the sustainability domain. Building Bridges goes beyond the financial sector. It regroups the corporate sector, academia, international organizations, governments, of course, civil society, the financial sector and the United Nations. [It regroups] all the competencies needed to find solutions together to drive this transition more effectively for the future.


What are the most important goals for the Swiss delegation at Finance Day?

Well, the Swiss financial sector has been at the origin of some of the trends in sustainable finance. It was true for microfinance that started in this country. It's also true that the trends towards impact finance – blended finance – have evolved very quickly in our country. We have also introduced measures that were, according to international standards, very quick, including in recent history. I'm talking about TCFD implementation (Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures). We have also introduced measurement capacities to analyze whether investments are sustainably made or not. That is our Swiss core. I think we have a lot to showcase because we are pragmatic and because we have a long tradition of professions in finance.