UN and Chinese fin-tech company to create digital green finance tools

23 Jan 17

The United Nations’ environment agency has struck a deal with a Chinese financial technology company with the aim of stimulating technology innovation in the field of green finance.

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Traffic jam in Bangkok, Thailand

Chinese fin-tech firm Ant Financial's products already enhance green finance for individuals in their daily lives. One app tracks a user's carbon footprint and awards them carbon credits, which can then be used to plant trees in Mongolia.

 

It is hoped the partnership, unveiled at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, will help to make green finance an integral part of the lives of people and businesses in China and beyond.

The ‘Green Digital Finance Alliance’ is an agreement between the UN Environment Programme and Ant Financial Services Group, one of China’s leading online mobile financial services providers, likened to PayPal.  

This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties in September last year, which announced they would be working together to promote sustainable development.

According to a UN statement, financing sustainable development is one of the greatest challenges of the day.

While the specific goals of the partnership are unclear at present, Erik Solheim, UNEP executive director, said: “The Green Financial Alliance is a unique partnership ensuring that we can align tomorrow’s fintec-powered global financial system with sustainable development.”

Solheim added that that UN Environment was honoured to partner with Ant Financial “in making green finance an integral part of the daily life of every individual and business.”

It will do this by working to make environmental risks, opportunities, incentives and choices part of decision-making across the financing value chain.

Some of Ant Financial’s existing products work to this end. One, a smartphone app, provides users with access to a ‘carbon account’, as well as their credit and savings accounts. Around 72 million people in China are already using the app, which allows users to benchmark their carbon footprint and earn ‘green energy credits’ in return for reducing their footprint.

When a users’ carbon credit reaches a certain level, environment protection agencies working with the company will plant a tree in the users’ name in Mongolia. 

Ant Financial is working with China’s Taiping Life Insurance in another scheme to launch an insurance product that will rebate the car owner the daily premium fee for the days the car is not used.   

Ant Financial has more than 450 million annual active users, while Credit Suisse estimates that 58% of China’s online payment transactions go through Ant Financial’s ‘Alipay’ service.

The company was formerly the online payment business of Alibaba, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies. 

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