IMTFI researcher Steve Seuser of the Public Banking Institute recently attended the Global Sustainable Finance Conference in Karlsruhe, Germany. He wrote the following report for the IMTFI blog:
In July 2012, the Global Sustainable Finance Conference took place in Karlsruhe, Germany. Sponsored by the Etech Center for Applied Environmental Technologies, the conference explored the intersection of sustainability and finance following the economic crisis in 2009. Approximately 70 attendees from around the world participated. The conference brochure is available online.
|An electric Smart Car, on display at the conference|
The two-day conference featured a series of interesting presentations on local to international themes such as responsible banking at Volksbank Karlsruhe and the impact of Rio + 20 on the Green Economy. Readers not familiar with German banks might be interested to learn about Germany’s long history of public and cooperative banking serving the needs of local businesses and residents. The cooperative Volksbank Karlsruhe, for example, was founded in 1858 now has 40,000 members, 430 employees, and 28 branches, with 2.2 billion euros in assets. It serves primarily small and medium enterprises and individuals. Collectively, cooperative banks in Germany have 727 billion euros in assets and serve 17 million members.
On the international side, many observers lamented the lack of outcomes at the Rio + 20 conference. Presenter Peter Prokosch, Managing Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme, however highlighted a silver lining. Measurability indicators for all three measures of sustainable development – environment, green economy, and social indicators -- will be incorporated into future plans. Also highlighted in the final Rio + 20 document are Sustainable Tourism, extensive discussion of oceans and seas, and small island development.
Other sessions at the conference highlighted the following topics:
- Marketable carbon bond (see www.standards.climatebond.net)
- Helping the financial industry to drive needed changes to create low-carbon and climate-resilient economies
- Sri Lanka’s innovative DFCC Bank, which embed sustainability into in lending programs
- Forestry as a sustainable environmental and financial industry
- A proposed redesign of the international copyright system to increase adoption of new technologies (“Inter-Temporal-Bounty System”)
- Facets of the Financial Market Crisis presented by Germany’s central bank
- Greening the insurance sector in India, presented by a government regulator
- India’s YES Bank’s investments in sustainability, including both debt and equity capital, in areas such as water purification, telemedicine, and low-income housing
- Wind energy project finance in Greece
- The remodeling of a 1970s office building occupied by public/nonprofit bank Sparkasse Karlsruhe for energy efficiency
The final official event of the conference was a visit to the E-Mobility Center Karlsruhe (www.emobilitaetszentrum.de), a hub that showcases possibly the largest variety of electric vehicles and support ever assembled in one location. American readers may be surprised to learn that GM markets the Chevy Volt in Europe under the Opel nameplate, with cars manufactured in the U.S. At the other end of the auto spectrum is Daimler Benz’s tiny Smart, which is available at least in Europe in an all-electric version for 17,000 euros (about $21,250), with battery packs available for lease for 65-75 euros/month. This pricing arrangement eliminates the high up-front purchase cost for electric vehicles, and spreads the battery costs out over their useable life span.
Other vehicles include all types of bicycles, scooters, small carts, delivery vehicles, and many other types of electric vehicles already available in the marketplace. Karlruhe is establishing a network of public charging stations to enable residents to drive these vehicles throughout the city. Plans are in development for a national network of charging stations.
Official presentations are expected to be made available shortly from the Etech website at http://www.etechgermany.com/en/main.html