Innovative financing structures and partnerships are key to enabling Asia’s equitable transition

Innovative financing structures and partnerships are key to enabling Asia's equitable transition

Singapore, 28 September – As developing Asia emerges from the global pandemic with further constrained budgets, closing the region’s trillion-dollar climate financing gap – and ensuring the transition is an equitable one – remains elusive, despite it being high on the international agenda. 

Leaders and decision-makers across the government, financial institutions and civic society convened in Singapore for the sixth edition of Unlocking capital for sustainability 2023. This year’s forum featured more than 50 speakers from across the globe, beginning with three regional dialogues held in person across Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines for the first time, before culminating in today’s main summit.  

Themed “Enabling an equitable transition”, the speakers discussed the key mechanisms to ensure the scaling of capital for Asia’s just transition, the frameworks to make transition finance a credible tool for decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors, the role of carbon markets in accelerating the region’s energy shift, how strategic investments into climate tech can maximise impact, and how funding from the public and private sector, as well as philanthropic partnerships, is critical in mobilising sustainable finance across the region.  

Organised by Eco-Business in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI), this annual flagship event on sustainable finance for Asia Pacific brought together high-level decision-makers to discuss and commit to actionable initiatives that can mobilise capital markets for sustainable development. 

Against the backdrop of slowing growth, rising interest rates, inflationary pressures and the ongoing war in Ukraine, Asia’s policymakers have had to grapple with priorities including poverty alleviation, supporting livelihoods and achieving energy security, alongside achieving their country’s climate targets.  

At the summit held at ParkRoyal Collection Marina Bay, speakers from leading financial institutions and industry players discussed innovative financing structures, partnerships and technologies that can ensure that the benefits of a net zero transition are fairly shared with vulnerable communities 

At the opening keynote, Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer, Google, spoke about how technology and public-private partnerships can overcome the challenges of energy procurement in Asia. “Carbon-free energy contracting can be very challenging given the local market dynamics and resource availability in the Asia Pacific region. Transitioning to a carbon-free future will require stronger government policies and partnerships with many organisations, new technologies and structural changes to the broader system that serves the operations in our value chains and those of other companies.”  

“We believe artificial intelligence is a foundational and transformational technology that has the potential to address the challenges of climate change, when deployed responsibly and effectively. Research shows the data and technology needed to mitigate climate change already exist – we simply need to deploy them,” said Ben King, Managing Director of Google Singapore, APAC. 

“To further help fuel and scale such innovative solutions, strategic collaboration and timely investments are essential. As announced at today’s event, our US$5 million funding commitment to the AVPN Sustainability Seed Fund is one of the ways we hope to empower the next generation of climate innovators as they develop promising solutions and scale them to their full potential. Together, we can build a more sustainable, resilient future for Singapore and the world,” King added. 

In the opening fireside chat, Desmond Kuek, Chief Executive Officer, Temasek Trust, noted the scale and complexity of the problems that surround climate finance. He said, “In Southeast Asia, I believe we all recognise that we may not all be in the same boat, but we are in the same storm. Solving the issue will require a multinational, multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary approach.”  

“Decarbonisation needs to happen fast, but it must also be done in a fair and inclusive manner so that communities and livelihoods can continue to thrive. The need for a just transition in Southeast Asia is even more pronounced as the region pursues macroeconomic development, urbanisation and industrialisation,” noted Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer, UOB. 

Atty. Federico Tancongco, Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, Head of Compliance and Legal Department, BDO Unibank said, “BDO recognises that its sustainability journey, along with other Asian financial institutions, will be more gradual in pace compared to counterpart banks in Europe and the United States. The Bank continues to collaborate with stakeholders to bring everyone towards the same direction and better manage the energy transition for Asian nations.”

Bey Soo Khiang, Vice Chairman, RGE also observed, “An equitable transition for companies requires translating global goals into actions on the ground, while factoring the community’s well-being into the transition plan. For this reason, RGE companies always look at doing what’s good for the community, country, climate, and customers. Only then will it be good for the company. To achieve this, it will require financial investments by the company and close collaboration with financial institutions. Partnerships are key to accelerate the transition to a net zero target.”

Closing the forum, United States Ambassador to Singapore Jonathan Kaplan said, “The transition to clean energy is a huge global task and public finance is an important part of this effort. We need leaders to work together and for everyone to push on global cooperation and joint projects, even with competitors, with those whom we share little common ground with, with global powers, and with small city-states. When we face global challenges – whether it is climate change, unexpected supply chain disruptions or health pandemics – our best chance of survival is to work together.” 

As a pre-event curtain raiser, Eco-Business also hosted a closed-door dialogue with investors on 27 September at 1880 Singapore. Titled “Beyond growth in Asia: Defining an equitable vision”,  it explored the challenges and opportunities around redefining the concept of growth and enabling sustainable prosperity in Asia. Speakers at this event acknowledged that growth is critical to Asia in uplifting communities and addressing societal aspirations, but that thriving, shared prosperity should be the metric used, not a simplistic metric. 

This year’s Unlocking capital for sustainability drew almost 500 in-person guests across Asia, including leaders in the government, financial sector and civic society from all around the world.  

Jessica Cheam, Founder and Managing Director at Eco-Business said, “Ensuring an equitable transition is a key item on the international agenda. In Asia, this is more relevant than ever as the region grapples with complex issues around economic development while addressing the climate crisis and societal inequalities. The economic transformation that is happening will be disruptive, and we need to have conversations on an orderly transition that involves collaboration between the private, public, philanthropic and people sectors.  

“We are heartened to witness the action and recommendations that have emerged from our series of forums in this year’s Unlocking capital for sustainability across the region. We have seen firm commitment and optimism from our key stakeholders and partners that it is possible to accelerate low-carbon pathways with breakthrough action, while charting a course where no one gets left behind. We thank all our partners for being with us on our journey and for their support.”  

The event’s strategic technology partner was Google and its strategic partners were BDO UnibankRGE and UOB. Its supporting partners included OCBCPollination and SM Investments Corporation

For more information, visit the Unlocking capital for sustainability website at 

For high-resolution photos from the event, please visit this page.


Plenaries include:   

  • Breakfast briefing – in partnership with Google  
  • Keynote address by Google chief sustainability officer - Uniting for a sustainable future: Catalysing climate innovation through AI and Partnerships
  • Special fireside chat with Temasek Trust CEO
  • Seeing Eye to Eye: A conversation with Asian regulators     
  • Enabling an equitable transition 
  • Afternoon keynote by UNEP FI
  • Plenary debate: “This house believes that carbon credits can accelerate the energy transition in Asia.” 
  • Financing innovation: Can climate tech live up to its promises? 
  • The role of the Board in the equitable transition
  • Mobilising climate finance from the 4Ps: Public, private and philanthropic partnerships  

Key speakers include:    

  • Ben King, Managing Director, Google Singapore  
  • Kate Brandt, Chief Sustainability Officer, Google  
  • Desmond Kuek, CEO, Temasek Trust   
  • H.E. Jonathan Kaplan, US Ambassador to Singapore 
  • Liesel Van Ast, Deputy Head, UNEP FI 
  • Iman Rachman, President Director, Indonesia Stock Exchange 
  • Leticia Guimarães, Lead, Carbon Markets; Climate Hub, United Nations Development Programme 
  • Michael Tang, Head, Listing Policy & Product Admission, SGX RegCo 
  • Datin Seri Sunita RajakumarChair, Dutch Lady, Climate Governance Malaysia; Adjunct Professor; Director, Petronas Chemicals, HSBC, Zurich General Insurance, MCIS Insurance
  • Youraden Seng, Director of Banking Supervision Department II, Sustainable Finance Working Group, National Bank of Cambodia 
  • Eric Lim, Chief Sustainability Officer, UOB   
  • Bey Soo Khiang, Vice Chairman, RGE Group 
  • Mike Ng, Chief Sustainability Officer, OCBC Bank   
  • Atty Federico Tancongco, Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, Head of Compliance and Legal Department, BDO Unibank   
  • Jay Mariyappan, Head, Carbon & Renewables, PetroChina International (Singapore)
  • Warren Evans, Special Senior Advisor on Climate Change at ADB   
  • Alvin Lee, Managing Director APAC,
  • Lia Nicholson, Head of Sustainability, Terrascope
  • Heng Dean Law, Managing Director, Pollination
  • Richard Mattison, Vice Chair of S&P Global Sustainable1 and Chief Executive Officer of S&P Global Trucost 
  • Goh Swee Chen, Chairman, National Arts Council
  • Shai Ganu, Managing Director, Willis Tower Watson, Singapore
  • Sarah Kemmitt, Lead Secretariat, Net-Zero Banking Alliance  
  • Sarah Cragg, Head of APAC, The Earthshot Prize
  • Naina Subberwal Batra, Chief Executive Officer, AVPN 
  • Zia Nariman, Senior Investment Officer and Asia Pacific Climate Lead, International Finance Cooperation  
  • Marija Ralic, Lead, Google APAC
  • Yvonne Zhang, Sustainability & Climate Change Leader, Risk Advisory, Deloitte
  • Augustine Anthuvan, Moderator-at-Large, Eco-Business
  • Jessica Cheam, Founder and Managing Director, Eco-Business  
  • Junice Yeo, Executive Director and Head of ESG Intelligence, Eco-Business
  • Meaghan See, Director of Partnerships, Eco-Business


Notes to Editors:  

For enquiries or photos, please contact: 

Gabrielle See, Eco-Business 

+65 84483680 


About Eco-Business   

Established in 2009, Eco-Business is an independent media and business intelligence company dedicated to sustainable development and ESG performance. It publishes high quality, trusted news and views in multimedia formats on business and policy developments around the world with a sustainability and ESG-focused lens.   

Eco-Business provides research and consulting on a wide range of issues which create strategic value for our partners and clients. It owns and creates thought-leadership platforms which inform policymaking, improve business practices and foster collaboration among different sectors. Eco-Business is headquartered in Singapore, with a presence in Manila, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Zurich, New York, and correspondents in major cities across the world. Visit us at    

About UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative  

UNEP Finance Initiative brings together a large network of banks, insurers and investors that collectively catalyses action across the financial system to deliver more sustainable global economies. 

For more than 30 years the initiative has been connecting the UN with financial institutions from around the world to shape the sustainable finance agenda. We’ve established the world’s foremost sustainability frameworks that help the finance industry address global environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges. 

Convened by a Geneva, Switzerland-based secretariat, more than 500 banks and insurers with assets exceeding US$170 trillion work together to facilitate the implementation of UNEP FI’s Principles for Responsible Banking and Principles for Sustainable Insurance, as well as three UN-convened net-zero alliances. Financial institutions work with UNEP FI on a voluntary basis and we help them to apply the industry frameworks and develop practical guidance and tools to position their businesses for the transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy. 

More details about UN Environment Finance Initiative can be found at  

About Unlocking capital for sustainability   

Unlocking capital for sustainability is an annual premiere event organised by Eco-Business in partnership with UN Environment that brings together high-level decision makers in finance, business, government and civic society to discuss and commit to actionable initiatives that mobilise the capital markets for sustainable development projects. The event’s strategic partners include RGE Group, UOB and BDO Unibank, and supporting partners are OCBC Bank, SM Investments Corporation and Pollination.  

More information about Unlocking capital for sustainability can be found at

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