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Sustainability 24 Jan 2020

Carlos Torres Vila: "Advising our clients in their environmental transition is an integral part of BBVA's strategy"

BBVA’s Group executive chairman participated in a debate organized by CNBC at Davos to discuss what financial institutions can do to mobilize resources for a more sustainable development. Carlos Torres Vila pointed to the bank’s commitment – not only to mobilize resources, but to accompany its clients in this change. “Advising our clients in their environmental transition is an integral part of BBVA’s strategy,” he said.

Carlos Torres Vila participated in this debate, along with ING CEO Ralph Hamers and Alison Martin, the CEO of Zurich Insurance for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The panel was moderated by CNBC host Karen Tso.

BBVA’s Group executive chairman feels that financial institutions should incorporate the risks and opportunities associated with climate change in their investment and financing decisions. For the bank, helping clients adapt to this new environment is a fundamental part of its strategy. “We finance and advise our clients in this environmental transition.

We have limited time, until 2030” to complete this transition, he warned. However, in his opinion, this change isn’t something that can be done overnight.  “We need to give people time to adapt their businesses” to this new reality, he stressed. Carlos Torres Vila spoke of the importance of evolving the current economic model to a more sustainable one in which developing countries are not at a disadvantage. This transition has to be “fair, leaving no one behind.” 

We need to give people time to adapt their businesses” to this new reality

BBVA’s Group executive chairman Carlos Torres Vila, during the debate organized by CNBC at Davos, together with ING CEO Ralph Hamers and Alison Martin, the CEO of Zurich Insurance for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. - BBVA

BBVA has already begun its transition. In 2018, the bank committed to mobilize €100 billion in sustainable finance by 2025. “In the first two years of this pledge, we have mobilized €30 billion, a figure that represents a major achievement,” recalled Carlos Torres Vila. BBVA is also a pioneer in fueling the financial sector’s collective contribution to sustainable development, another objective in its Pledge 2025. In fact, it was one of the first banks to announce its commitment to align its lending activities to the Paris Agreement at COP24 in Katowice, which later gave rise to the Collective Commitment to Climate Action. BBVA was also one of the first banks to subscribe to the Principles for Responsible Banking

In addition, BBVA has committed to be neutral in terms of direct CO2 emissions, and has assigned an internal price to its carbon emissions across all units of the bank. “Including the cost of CO2 emissions in their P&L accounts is a very powerful signal, and we are already starting to see a change in behavior. We advise all of our clients to do the same,”  he said.

He also stressed that banks are not heavy carbon producers. “We shouldn’t forget that we are a middleman to finance the future.

Carlos Torres Vila feels that a single global market is needed for carbon emissions. “It would be a very powerful incentive for businesses to really transition.” This is one of the issues for which an agreement was not reached at the Madrid Climate Change Conference (COP25), and BBVA’s Group executive chairman hopes it will be finalized at the next COP.

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