Home Data COP28 UAE TechSprint tackles sustainable finance ‘data verification gaps’

COP28 UAE TechSprint tackles sustainable finance ‘data verification gaps’

Climate change: the COP28 UAE TechSprint is focused on innovative AI, blockchain and Internet-of-Things/sensor technology solutions | Credit: Jody Davis (Pixabay)

A hackathon-style competition tied to the forthcoming COP28 climate summit in Dubai has opened for entries.

The ‘COP28 UAE TechSprint’ aims to ‘foster innovation in scaling sustainable finance and combating climate change’. It is timetabled to climax during COP28, which will be held from 30 November to 12 December in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s biggest city.

To enter the TechSprint – which is being run by the COP28 presidency, Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) and Emirates Institute of Finance (EIF) – developers and innovators need submit a proposal to help solve ‘data verification gaps’ in at least one of three emerging fintech-related fields.

The three fields of entry (‘problem statements’) are: artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for sustainable finance reporting, verification and disclosure in the financial services industry; blockchain solutions for auditing and enhancing transparency, traceability and accountability in sustainable finance; and Internet-of-Things (IoT) and sensor technology solutions for sustainable finance to ensure ‘informed’ assessments of impact, risk or compliance. 

Entrants need to submit proposals by 6 October. Shortlisted teams will be invited to further develop their solutions and will also be eligible to receive AED 45,000 (about £9,800/$12,250). Winners for each problem statement will be announced during COP28. They will each receive AED 220,000 (about £48,000/$60,000).

RELATED ARTICLE Fintech hackathons turn attention to green finance – a news story (11 May 2021) on two initiatives (‘G20 TechSprint 2021’ and a Monetary Authority of Singapore-organised programme) focused on green fintech

AI, blockchain and IoT challenges

The COP28 UAE TechSprint organisers have provided detailed problem statements fleshing out what they are looking for.

In respect of AI solutions, entrants are asked to address the challenge of ‘automating and increasing adoption of standards in sustainable finance using AI technology to unlock the value of vast troves of unstandardised sustainability data’.

Questions to tackle include: ‘what practical and scalable solutions can leverage generative AI to accurately implement (e.g. measure, report and verify) green frameworks internationally, while allowing issuers to quickly leverage multiple data sources to comply with disclosure, standard and taxonomy-related requirements?’; and ‘what practical and scalable solutions can leverage AI tools to enable financial institutions, asset managers, and investors to make informed underwriting and investment decisions accelerating sustainable finance?’.

In respect of blockchain, entrants are asked to address the challenge of ‘ensuring data integrity in sustainable finance using blockchain technology to increase investor and market confidence by enhancing transparency, traceability and accountability’.

Two questions being asked include: ‘how can using blockchain in the context of capital markets (for example, green bonds) enable efficient auditing processes, enhanced transparency and seamless traceability in sustainable finance while harnessing blockchain’s potential to disintermediate, increase speed and reduce costs?’; and ‘what practical and scalable solutions can effectively track and validate the environmental impact of investments, ensure compliance with sustainability standards, and foster a high level of trust among stakeholders?’.

In respect of IoT and sensor technologies, questions being asked include: ‘how can creative combinations of IoT and sensor technologies (all types of on-site, off-site and remote sensor technologies, which may also include spatial information technology and satellite remote sensing) revolutionise the collection, analysis and reporting of sustainability metrics in sustainable finance?’; and ‘how can secure and globally scalable IoT and sensor technology solutions facilitate accurate data insights, enable proactive risk management and empower asset managers to seamlessly comply with sustainability requirements, thereby driving the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy?’.

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‘Fostering investor confidence’

CBUAE governor Khaled Mohamed Balama, who is also EIF chairman, described the initiative as aiming to “encourage innovators across the globe to leverage financial technology in developing new green and sustainable finance solutions”.

COP28 president designate Sultan Al Jaber said that the introduction of advanced technological solutions that support the development of sustainable finance standards and instruments would “foster investor confidence and better ensure that capital reaches those who require it the most”.

BIS general manager Agustín Carstens said that “to finance the needed transformation, investors need certainty that their funds are channelled to their intended uses” and that “technologies that promote the timely measurement and disclosure of climate-related information are part of the solution.”

Green finance is one of the BIS Innovation Hub’s 2023 priorities, with projects being undertaken to explore the application of technologies including AI, blockchain and IoT to green finance instruments and climate-related disclosure. Carstens said the COP28 UAE TechSprint would “complement these efforts to address remaining gaps in the green finance market”.

The hackathon is operating via a platform called APIX (which stands for API Exchange), operated by a Singapore-headquartered fintech company called Synfindo. 

RELATED ARTICLE UAE to develop national carbon credits system using blockchain – a news story (14 August 2023) on the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and two technology partners as they look to establish ‘the world’s first-of-its-kind national system for carbon credits using blockchain technology’

Climate action under scrutiny

The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment last month signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with two technology partners as they look to establish ‘the world’s first-of-its-kind national system for carbon credits using blockchain technology’ (carbon credits are tradeable permits or certificates to emit a set amount of polluting gas). The collaboration ultimately aims to cut emissions and boost sustainable agriculture, environmental health and biodiversity in the UAE by providing ‘the highest levels of transparency, reliability, efficiency and security in managing the issuance, transfer, calculation and accurate tracking of carbon credits,’ according to an announcement.

The UAE recently set a new target of cutting emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. Its ambition was previously 31 per cent. The revised target, announced in July, is part of the third update of the UAE’s second Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs are countries’ self-defined national climate pledges under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The government has faced criticism for appointing Al Jaber as COP28 president. The minister of industry and advanced technology, and UAE special envoy for climate change, is also group chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). He is also chairman of Masdar, a UAE-government owned renewable energy company.

The Washington Post reported on 9 August that the UAE had engaged a US-based communications agency to ‘counteract all negative press and media reports’ about its role in hosting COP28.

The winners were announced last week of a different global fintech hackathon – the G20 TechSprint 2023 – in which BIS was also involved. Organised by BIS alongside the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) – the central bank of the nation currently holding the G20 presidency – this initiative focused on improving cross-border payments. It was the fourth ‘G20 TechSprint’, with the 2021 edition – co-organised by the BIS alongside Banca d’Italia (for Italy’s G20 presidency) focused on green finance.

FURTHER READING

‘Fintech and the SDGs: a fireside chat with Aiaze Mitha’ – a write-up of a fireside chat with Aiaze Mithathe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s global lead for digital finance for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), held during the Global Government Fintech Lab 2023 on 18 May 2023

‘Going green: governments look to fintech to help combat climate crisis’ – write-up of a Global Government Fintech webinar titled ‘How Can “Green Fintech” Help Tackle Climate Change?’ (held on 8 February 2022)