The SDGs, which provide a framework for global development initiatives until 2030, are estimated to cost at least $1tn every year – with that being by far the lowest approximation.
Speaking at the event at the UN headquarters in New York yesterday, Peter Thomson, president of the UN General Assembly, said some $90tn would be needed over the next 15 years.
“An exponential transformation of the global financial system will be required,” he said, noting there is a “seminal reason” for emphasising the role of the private sector.
“The private sector serves as the custodian of the largest pools of the world’s resources, and the main engine driving entrepreneurship and innovation around the world,” he explained.
“We must distinguish between the various sources of capital and asset classes that they represent and recognise their varying spheres of operation and influence – from multinational corporations through to grassroots small-holder farmers.”
He highlighted the vast wealth – valued at over $80tn in the OECD alone – of institutional investors, including insurance companies, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and philanthropic organisations.
Shifting the investment behaviour of this category of private investor has the potential to transform efforts towards achievement of the SDGs, he said.
“The challenge for the international community is how we can catalyse this shift, by creating the right incentives and enabling environments so that progressively more private actors orient their business in the direction of the world’s sustainable development needs.”
He called for policy and regulatory reform to enable better leverage financing, for sustainability to be embedded in decision making and for foreign investment and higher-risk, longer-term projects to be encouraged.
“All this work must be consolidated and scaled up,” he stressed, noting that action should be taken now to take advantage of historically low interest rates and “large pools of underperforming assets” the world over.
Also speaking at the event, UN deputy secretary general Amina Mohammed said such initiatives and partnerships with the private sector are as important as those prioritising raising resources nationally through tax, for instance.
“Sustainability should guide how we shape incentive structures,” she said. “Sustainability should inform consumer preferences.
“Sustainability should shape the interests of shareholders. Collectively, these forces can generate unstoppable positive momentum.”