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The year 2015 may in hindsight turn out to be a pivotal year in the push for global sustainability. Throughout the year, many international players ? both public and private ? substantially increased their commitment to addressing climate change, reducing energy consumption, lowering emissions, and other efforts to protect the earth's environment.

As these issues take center stage globally, they are also gaining traction here in Asia. How Asian countries balance the need for investment and growth with environmentally sustainable practices will set the course for future generations. Urbanization is one of the defining trends of our time, and many developing nations in Asia are still building their industrial bases. Success in these efforts is critical to human welfare, but can threaten the environment. Thankfully, there are solutions ? and some in Asia are leading the way in implementing them.

Asia's Rise in Sustainable Investments

Sustainable investing in Asia is on the rise, particularly in renewable energy. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that clean energy investments in Asia topped $106 billion in 2013, while China has become the largest clean energy investment destination in the world with investments exceeding $83 billion in 2014. India's clean energy investments increased by about $2 billion between 2006 and 2014, and Indonesia is making a push to attract $100 billion in green investments by 2019.

Yet despite these huge inflows of investment, many Asian countries continue to face near critical environmental challenges. The region includes the world's fastest growing network of developing nations, yet over 600 million of its people lack electricity and remain highly dependent on fossil fuels. ADB estimates that Asia produces 37 percent of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions.

Action is being taken, and government policy is not the only lever. For instance, in 2006 only a few Asian developing nations had renewable energy policies, while today, 23 countries in the region have clean energy standards. In 2014, ADB financed more than $2.4 billion in clean energy investments in Asia, compared to just $280 million in 2005. We are also seeing enormous demand for help from the international business community. Global financial institutions are uniquely placed to lend our expertise, knowledge, and resources to help developing economies achieve sustainable growth and improve quality of life in their communities.

Environmental Commitment in Action

Earlier this year, Citi announced an unprecedented commitment to lend, invest and facilitate a total of $100 billion over the next ten years to finance activities that reduce the impacts of climate change and create environmental solutions that benefit people and communities. As part of this effort, we are working with clients to identify opportunities to finance greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and efficiency improvements in other sectors, such as sustainable transportation.

Our focus has been directly financing infrastructure improvements that increase access to clean water and manage waste, while also supporting green and affordable housing for clients, including in low- and moderate-income communities.

The Path Forward

At Citi, we are also holding ourselves to high standards in terms of our own operations. We have established ambitious goals for our own firm, including a 35 percent reduction in GHG emissions, 30 percent reductions in energy and water use, and a 60 percent reduction in waste ? all by 2020. We are pledging that by that same year, a third of our real estate portfolio will be certified under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building standards. And we are seeking the highest level of certification ? LEED Platinum ? for our newly renovated global headquarters in New York City.

In the Asia Pacific region specifically, we have 51 projects in 10 countries that have achieved LEED certification, seven of which are LEED Platinum. In late 2014, the Citi Service Centre at EON Knowledge Park in Pune, India, received one of the highest Platinum scores in all of Asia Pacific at the time of certification. Environmental concerns have been factored into the design across all of our sites in Asia, and we aim to do so in an environmentally responsible way where we expand our footprint elsewhere.

We are also using a new financing structure ? an Energy Services Agreement to cut energy use by 10 percent at our London data center. The project is being funded through energy savings and required no upfront capital from Citi. This is a model that is applicable and attractive to all kinds of institutions, and one that we expect to use more and more of at Citi and on behalf of our clients going forward.

Another way to achieve meaningful sustainability is through collaboration between the public and private sectors. At Citi, we have seen the success of public-private partnerships first-hand. Most recently, we partnered on the Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans (WHEEL); a collaboration between national leaders in the worlds of finance and energy. Through this partnership, we are making it easier for consumers to make energy efficiency improvements, such as boiler replacements, to their homes while providing a path for investors into this important and urgently needed market.

Financial institutions are among the most important actors in the global effort to reduce environmental and social risk. We are well-positioned to scale up clean energy investments that will affect not only our own industry, but virtually every sector of the global economy. By incorporating the principles of sustainability into everything we do, we can effectively improve our own operations, enhance our clients' work, and contribute to a better world.

All this did not start in 2015. But 2015 is shaping up to be the year when the push for sustainability itself gained the momentum to become sustainable.

Mike Corbat is the Chief Executive Officer of Citigroup.

YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN:

McKinsey&Company

No Ordinary Disruption: The Forces Reshaping Asia

The Boston Consulting Group

Overcoming Asia's Obstacles to Growth

SIR MARTIN SORRELL, WPP

The Next Big Grey Swans: What Are The Next Big Known Unknowns That Can Affect Global Businesses

Mike Corbat, Citi

Banking on a Greener Asia, and a Greener World

OMAR SHAHZAD, MEINHARDT

Smart Cities: Solving Asia's Urbanization Challenges & Spurring Economic Growth

Peter Mandelson, Global Counsel

Staying on the plane

DR. JOERG WOLLE, DKSH

A New Economic Actor On The World Stage

EUGENE KASPERSKY, KASPERSKY LAB

The Internet Of Threats: Why Global Companies Can't Afford To Take Cybersecurity Lightly

Piyush Gupta, DBS

Leveraging Financial Technology to Spur Growth

JIM BARBER, UPS INTERNATIONAL

Global Supply Chains, Intra-Asia Trade, And Implications Of A More Connected Asia

DEEPAK PAREKH, HDFC LTD.

Financing Infrastructure Through Greater Regional Co-Operation

DR. REINHARD PLOSS, INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES AG

Industry 4.0: How Asia Can Benefit From The Next Industrial Revolution

PROFESSOR ILIAN MIHOV, INSEAD

Developing Talent For The Global Marketplace

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