Monday 23 August 2021 6:00 am

Global Britain must pivot towards Asia but it must also ensure polluting countries take climate change seriously

William Russell is Lord Mayor of the City of London.

If the Government’s Global Britain vision is to be a success, the UK must strengthen ties with the most populous continent in the world: Asia.

An agreement to boost cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – ten member countries in the Indo-Pacific, home to nearly 10 percent of the world’s population – announced earlier this month was a promising step in the right direction.

Many of these countries are experiencing rapid growth that is improving the livelihoods of millions of people across the region. But it also presents a major challenge in terms of sustainability and climate change. It is with this in mind, I will be holding virtual “visits” to South East Asian countries next month.

The City of London Corporation, alongside the Green Finance Institute, is hosting an event at November’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow – better known as COP26, which will explore how financial and professional services can further play a role in the journey to net zero.

Over the last few years the UK has risen steadily to become a world-leading hub for green financing, and we have been active in sharing our experience with other countries. As with any new industry there are still a number of outstanding issues to iron out which the summit will explore, including barriers to accelerating the mobilisation of capital, financing both transition and growth, and how we price carbon and nature.

Many of these questions are particularly relevant in Indonesia, the largest economy in South East Asia and one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters and producers of plastic waste. Home to 270 million people and more than 17,000 islands, the country has a significant need for infrastructure investment across the board, requiring hundreds of billions in financing over the next few years.

I’ll be talking to Indonesian partners about these projects and explaining what the UK can do to help make them a reality. But I’ll also be delivering a full and frank message to those I meet here and elsewhere in the region: if we are to limit global warming, growth needs to be sustainable.

In the UK and across the developed world we have a responsibility to help ensure this.

We must step up to the plate and fulfil promises to provide at least $100bn a year in climate finance flows to developing countries like Indonesia. And we need to use these funds to leverage even greater amounts of private finance – the key to mobilising the trillions needed. This is why the City Corporation are working hand-in-hand with Bloomberg on their Climate Finance Leadership Initiative, which aims to scale private capital into emerging economies, including those in ASEAN.

We’re also reaching out to fellow international financial centres, putting competition aside in favour of cooperation for the sake of the planet, and the global recovery from Covid. To this end, I’ll be meeting my counterparts in Singapore to discuss COP26, and how we can strengthen our relationship, particularly in terms of improving mutual market access. I’ll also be leading conversations on digital trade, focussing on the hugely exciting prospect of a UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement.

We don’t know yet what will come out of COP26 in November. But one thing is for certain: without ASEAN on board, we cannot hope to beat climate change.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.