Looking back at the FIR Annual Conference 2023
On Wednesday, 18 October 2023, the traditional FIR Annual Conference took place at the Prague University of Economics and Business, this year on the topic Sustainability in Finance: how to achieve decarbonisation?
In a two-panel moderated discussion, Czech and international experts shared their views on the topic of decarbonisation, which the EU is heading towards by 2050. Linda Zeilina-Cross, Martin Špolc and Ota Melcher took part in the first part. Hélène Lanier, Raúl García Rodriguéz and Richard Juřík were invited to take part in the second panel of the debate.
Martin Spolc is the Head of the Sustainable Finance unit in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Financial Services.
Prior to his current role, he was the Head of the Capital Markets Union unit, the Economic analysis unit, Deputy Head of the Banking unit and Assistant to the Director General, directly involved in developing the Banking Union and other key projects in the area of financial services aiming at restoring financial stability since the crisis. Before joining the Commission, he had worked at risk management consultancy and the banking sector.
He is the holder of the CFA and FRM designations and member of the CFA Institute and Global Association of Risk Professionals. He hold MA from Faculty of International Relations, Prague University of Economics and Business.
Ota leads the Economic Transformation unit at the Ministry of Finance of the Czech Republic. The unit primarily manages the public sector’s work on sustainable finance and supports its role in facilitating a transition to a low-carbon economy.
Prior to his current position, Ota worked at the Czech Mission to the OECD as an Economic and Financial Counsellor covering a wide spectrum of policy areas and interactions. Before that, he spent a number of years in macroeconomic forecasting and structural policy design teams at the Ministry of Finance.
Ota graduated from Prague University of Economics and Business with a degree in International Trade and from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, with a degree in Development Studies. He also holds a Ph.D. degree in international trade from the Prague University of Economics and Business.
Hélène is the Managing Director of 2° Investing Initiative France. Hélène has 15 years of experience in the financial industry and regulation. She leads sustainable finance projects in Europe and abroad on topics related to greening the financial sector, transition plans, and sustainability disclosure. She is a member of the European Platform on Sustainable Finance.
Raúl García Rodriguéz
Raul leads the sustainability and climate advisory team at Deloitte CZ & SK. He is also the leader of Deloitte’s sustainable real estate working group in CE Region and is part of the EMEA sustainability strategy steering committee; also being a member of the CE business development leadership for the Region. He is passionate about land remediation, creating and preserving value through efficient, circular use of resources.
With more than 25 years of International appointments in Public Institutions & Private Corporations currently leads a team of 10 sustainability practitioners in CZSK coordinating local and international engagements and sourcing delivery teams from within a team of around 200 professionals in Deloitte’s CE sustainability practice.
At Deloitte Raul works actively in creating comprehensive ESG strategies with a variety of solutions and compulsory ESG-related measures and has gained further insights through engagements in various industries: energy, FMCG, automotive and finance at local and regional engagements.
Richard serves as Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Policy and Sustainable Development at the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.
Richard has long been dedicated to the development of evidence-based policy and the integration of environmental and economic policies within the Czech state administration. He took part in the preparation of the Adaptation Strategy of the Czech Republic, leads the impact assessment of the EU climate and energy policies on the Czech Republic, and elaboration methodological guidelines for the implementation of the „do no significant (environmental) harm“ principle and climate proofing of infrastructure with respect to EU funds in the Czech Republic. He is among the Czech negotiators for the EU taxonomy for sustainable investments and continues to focus on the topic of sustainable finance. Richard’s university background includes the Faculty of International Relations, Prague University of Economics and Business, and the Faculty of Law, Charles University.
The conference was opened with a speech by the Dean of FIR, doc. Ing. Josef Taušer, Ph.D., who then handed over the floor to the moderator of the first panel, Vice Dean for Study Affairs, Mgr. Ing. Daniel Houska, Ph.D. After the introduction of the guests, Martin Špolc started the discussion with the topic of Transition Finance, who appealed to the importance of transparency not only in the financial sector. He also shared the information that from the EU side all legislative steps are already over and now it is up to the private sector. Linda continued with her perspective on the importance that the much talked about words “sustainability” and “ESG” represent nowadays. She also pointed out the importance of taxonomy and transparency of available data in the financial sector. Ota Melcher followed up with the topic of “financial reporting”, which all panelists agreed may represent an added cost for companies, but is ultimately an investment in the future.
“Sadly, currently, it all starts with regulation compliance. But the point is to use it for your best opportunity. Do seek those opportunities! People don´t see it as an investment. The positive outcome will come, although many years later.” Linda Zeilina-Cross “There will be significant compliance cost at the beginning of the process.” Ota Melcher
“Sadly, currently, it all starts with regulation compliance. But the point is to use it for your best opportunity. Do seek those opportunities! People don´t see it as an investment. The positive outcome will come, although many years later.”
“There will be significant compliance cost at the beginning of the process.”
At the end of the first panel, conference participants could ask questions to the guests via the Slido platform. One of them was about EU regulations in the field of financial reporting: Won’t it negatively affect competitiveness in the Czech Republic and across the EU compared to third countries? Another question was directed at small and medium-sized enterprises; Linda commented that Czech companies are not proactive enough, not only in the matter of reporting, investments and sustainable finance. The last question was about when the taxonomy in agriculture will be available. Martin pointed out that it is not yet available and its further development will depend on the next commission.
The first panel ended with a short farewell to the guests who concluded their thoughts on the topics discussed. A short break for refreshments followed, after which the moderator Mgr. Jarolím Antal, Ph.D., the second panel of the discussion. It was mainly devoted to the topic of decarbonisation and was entitled “Decarbonisation: public finance and private finance”. The debate was opened by Richard Juřík, who introduced the audience to the context of the Czech Republic and its current position on decarbonisation within the framework of the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). He outlined that the Czech Republic is now facing many challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome in order to achieve the targets set by the Union. He pointed out, for example, the level of investment and appealed to the private sector to seize investment projects and opportunities. The debate also touched on central heating, where significant investment will be needed.
You can watch the whole conference in the video below.
Thank you to everyone involved – guests, attendees, and online listeners – for their inspiring comments, questions, and opinions.