Public Policy Bulletin, 19 February 2021

Feb 19, 2021

 

In this week’s Public Policy news, read about the 2021 Ireland for Finance Plan in which Chartered Accountants Ireland is a stakeholder; positive Eurozone GDP and employment estimates for Q4, 2020; and investment by both the UK and EU in green research, environment and climate action.

Ireland for Finance Action Plan 2021 published

The  Ireland for Finance Action Plan 2021 has been published by Minister of State for Financial Services, Credit Unions, and Insurance, Seán Fleming TD, following Cabinet approval.

The Ireland for Finance Action Plans are published every year to update the ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy, the Irish Government’s strategy for the development of Ireland’s international financial services sector to 2025. The vision of  strategy is for Ireland to be the recognised global location of choice for specialist international financial service, and the strategy is supported through ongoing collaboration between public and private stakeholders and educational institutions. The strategy is structured around the following four pillars:

  • operating environment
  • technology and innovation
  • talent
  • communications and promotion,

and the annual Action Plans contain lists of measures grouped under each of the four pillars to be actioned in that year, to be executed by a responsible stakeholder. The 2021 Action Plan identifies four priorities: sustainable finance; diversity; regionalisation, and digital finance.

New actions under the 2021 Plan include delivering a new Masters programme in fintech innovation, promoting careers for women in the Financial Services industry, and developing a portfolio of sustainable finance education programmes.  Ongoing initiatives include engaging at EU level on sustainable finance developments, continuing the rollout of Ireland’s sustainable finance innovation programme supporting the development of new IFS environmental, social, and governance products and services, and delivering training programmes in sustainable finance and responsible investment supported by the Sustainable Finance Skillnet.

Chartered Accountants Ireland is identified as a responsible stakeholder in the Action Plan, in its support of the financial services sector. Under the plan, the Institute will seek to provide a post-qualification accreditation, review its initial qualification syllabus, and revisit its CPD programme to ensure it best meets the needs of the financial services sector. Additionally, Chartered Accountants Ireland will assist in attracting, retaining, and upskilling people by promoting the flexible route to Chartered Accountancy within the financial services sector.

Commenting on the 2021 Action Plan, Minister Donohoe noted:

“The International Financial Services sector in Ireland will play a major role in not only the global economic recovery but the twin transitions to a digital and sustainable future. The 2021 Action Plan, drawn up in partnership with industry, sets out clearly how we intend to build on our strengths and successes in recent years in this dynamic and growing sector.”

Minister Fleming officially launched the Ireland for Finance Action Plan for 2021 ahead of the sixth annual European Financial Forum, the  speakers at which included EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness. Commissioner McGuinness is the keynote speaker at the upcoming joint IOB/Chartered Accountants Ireland Financial Services Conference on March 12, also mentioned in the Action Plan.

UK to invest £10 million in green finance research hubs

It was announced this week that the UK government is to invest £10 million for green finance research hubs, to be based in Leeds and London. It is intended that the hubs will provide world-class data and analytics to support financial institutions and services in considering environmental and climate-change impacts. It is also expected that the hubs will attract and develop new green finance talent from around the world to the UK’s major cities.

The plan is the latest development in the UK’s drive to ‘build back greener’, create new ‘green’ jobs and become a world-leader in tackling climate change, as set out in the Prime Minister’s Ten point plan, published in November 2020, and the government’s December 2020 Energy white paper.  

Commenting, UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:

“The UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment in London and Leeds will encourage financial services to turn the tide of their investments and focus on sectors and companies that have a smaller environmental footprint. Doing so will support industries and businesses to develop clean green innovations, creating thousands of jobs across the country – ensuring we build back greener.”

Positive Eurozone GDP and employment estimates for the fourth quarter of 2020

Estimates this week from Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, have shown that the fall in the eurozone GDP was less than initially estimated in the last quarter of 2020. According to a flash estimate by Eurostat, an earlier estimate of a 0.7 percent quarter-on-quarter contraction in the eurozone GDP for the October–December period is now estimated to be 0.6 percent. Also, despite pandemic lockdowns, employment has increased against the previous three months, with employment growing 0.3 percent in the EU in the last three months of 2020. However, this is still 2 percent lower than the 2019 equivalents.

€121 million to be invested by the EU in environment, nature and climate action projects

The European Commission has announced an investment of €121 million for new integrated projects under the LIFE programme, the EU's funding instrument for the environment and climate action.

LIFE integrated projects were introduced in 1992 and have co-financed more than 5,500 projects across the EU and in non-EU countries. The funding this year has increased by 20% compared to last year and will promote the green recovery in Ireland and other countries.

Integrated projects aim to enable statutory authorities in EU Member States implement environmental and climate legislation to the fullest extent, helping Member States comply with key EU legislation in six areas: nature, water, air, waste, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. Uniquely, they allow Member States to make use of other EU funding sources -  agricultural, structural, regional and research funds as well as national funds and private sector investment.  Under ‘Climate Change Mitigation’ mention is made of Ireland’s restoration of c.10,000 hectares of peatlands – an area roughly the size of Dublin – which have high carbon-storage potential.

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