Speech by FS at EuroCham Sustainable Finance Working Group Launch Event (English only) (with photo)
Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Paul Chan, at the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (EuroCham) Sustainable Finance Working Group Launch Event today (September 19):
Representatives from consulates, Mr Amate (Vice-Chair of EuroCham and President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Mr Iñaki Amate), Mr van Hattum (Head of the trade and economic section of the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macao, Mr Walter van Hattum), members of the Sustainable Finance Working Group, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be with you today, to have this welcome opportunity to address our European friends and partners.
You represent consulates and corporations, financial institutions, academia, the media and more. And you are here for good reason. You’re here to formally launch the European Chamber of Commerce’s Sustainable Finance Working Group.
It is, I’m pleased to say, a smartly considered, much welcomed, Chamber initiative. As the Chamber has said, and I quote, “Finance has a fundamental role in facilitating the transition to a more sustainable future.” I agree, and believe that the Sustainable Finance Working Group can play a significant role in Hong Kong’s development as a green and sustainable finance centre.
Allow me, for the next few minutes, to talk about the HKSAR Government’s efforts – and they are considerable – to promote Hong Kong as the green and sustainable finance hub for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the region as a whole.
Last October, we published our Climate Action Plan 2050. It sets out carbon emission strategies and measures. Our goal is to reduce Hong Kong’s carbon emissions by 50 per cent before 2035, achieving carbon neutrality before 2050.
We have, I can tell you, devoted substantial financial resources to that end – more than US$6 billion to date.
Over the next 15 to 20 years, we will invest at least another US$30 billion more to combat climate change. This will create outsized opportunities in our growing green economy.
Ours is a multi-pronged approach.
Last November, we issued about US$4 billion worth of government green bonds, in multiple tranches, targeting global institutional investors. The bonds were denominated in US dollars, euros and Renminbi.
Despite market volatility, the issuances attracted strong interest from a diverse group of conventional and green investors from around the world.
The 20-year tranche, I’m pleased to say, was the longest euro-denominated green bond issued by an Asian government at the time. It was also the Government’s inaugural offering of euro-denominated bonds, setting a benchmark for potential issuers in Hong Kong and the region.
In May, we issued Hong Kong’s inaugural retail green bond. It totalled about US$2.6 billion (HK$20 billion), making it the largest retail green bond issuance in the world.
Thanks to the issuance, our residents can now contribute directly to Hong Kong’s greening and development of sustainable finance.
In that regard, we share a common vision with EuroCham’s Sustainable Finance Working Group – that a commonly adopted taxonomy can enable the flow of green finance globally.
Last November, the International Platform on Sustainable Finance published its Common Ground Taxonomy report, which could help define what activities contribute significantly to climate change mitigation.
We have accepted the report and are now exploring a green classification framework for the local market. We want it to fit smoothly with the Common Ground Taxonomy, as well as the taxonomies of the Mainland and the EU. In short, we want Hong Kong’s regulatory standards to align with international best practice.
There is opportunity, too, in carbon trading. In March, the Green and Sustainable Finance Cross-Agency Steering Group published a preliminary feasibility assessment for Hong Kong. It recommended developing Hong Kong into a global, high-quality voluntary carbon market.
In July, HKEX launched the Hong Kong International Carbon Market Council, comprising members from Hong Kong, the Mainland and international corporations and financial institutions.
The Council is considering the development of a Hong Kong-based international carbon market built on world-class market infrastructure, products and services.
Given the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the Mainland and Hong Kong, we expect financial services opportunities to expand in Hong Kong and the region. That can only heighten the demand for relevant financial professionals.
The Steering Group has also identified a critical need for talent, if Hong Kong is to emerge as a leader in green and sustainable finance.
It established the Centre for Green and Sustainable Finance in July 2021, to co-ordinate capacity building and policy development.
Since then, the Centre has launched a series of initiatives. These range from training and internship opportunities to building capacity, talent and data resources for the financial industry.
We will also launch a Pilot Green and Sustainable Finance Capacity Building Support Scheme before year’s end.
The scheme will offer subsidies to those seeking relevant professional qualifications.
EuroCham, I’m pleased to note, is also contributing to the green talent pool, organising a mentorship programme for sustainable finance students and professionals.
Talent development aside, I’m counting on your continuing support of Hong Kong’s financial and professional services for green and sustainable investment, financing and certification.
We provide subsidies for eligible bond issuers and loan borrowers for their borrowings in Hong Kong. That prospect is available through the Green and Sustainable Finance Grant Scheme, launched last year.
We have, let me add, recently lowered the minimum loan size to HK$100 million for subsidies covering their external review costs. We are committed to supporting companies looking for green financing.
About 130 applications have been approved under the scheme so far, involving a total grant of some HK$130 million. The grants cover a range of green and sustainable debt instruments.
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s just a few examples of the initiatives under way, and in the works, to develop Hong Kong as a green and sustainable hub.
Rest assured, more will follow, as we continue to take advantage of the enormous opportunities presented by the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative.
As we do, we count on your support, through such innovative initiatives as the Sustainable Finance Working Group. Working together, the possibilities are boundless, in sustainable finance and much else.
On the point raised by Mr Amate, we fully acknowledge the negative impact of COVID-19 on Hong Kong, in particular our attractiveness to international businesses and talents. The new-term Government is determined to turn this around.
Despite the fact that the number of new COVID-19 cases had once gone up to more than 10 000 a day, we generally did not close facilities or further tighten social distancing requirements. Instead, we halted the flight suspension mechanism, thus removing the uncertainties faced by international business executives and travellers. We also rationalised the quarantine arrangements to “3+4”. It might be acceptable to the locals, but we know it might not be good enough in terms of attracting tourists and international business travellers.
The Government of this term, under the leadership of the Chief Executive and the Secretary for Health, adopts a more science- and evidence-based strategy to respond to the challenge of COVID-19. We are doing our best to move forward step by step.
The Chief Executive will deliver his Policy Address on October 19. On the competitiveness of Hong Kong, please rest assured that we will roll out bold measures to attract talents and strategic businesses to come to Hong Kong. We will be proactive, more responsive to market changes and closer to the needs of businesses, and we will not just count on our traditional advantages.
Ladies and gentlemen, autumn arrives at week’s end. More than cooling breezes, the new season will bring with it fresh hope and promise for us all. Thank you for having me in this afternoon.