The momentum driving green bonds is growing and they have emerged as a major instrument of green finance. Green bonds generate funding for sustainable development and clean energy technology. They attract debt investment capital and drive innovation in renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, forests and other environmental causes. At COP21 green bonds were touted as being one of the vehicles that could help deliver $100 billion annually by 2020 to support of climate action.
A 2014 HSBC report indicates that we will need to see $300 billion a year in investments to keep us below the upper threshold limit of 2 Celsius. If even a fraction of the $80 trillion bond market moved to environmental finance, it could tip the scales in the climate fight, says Angus McCrone, Chief Editor for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
According to Ceres, we need to invest around $1 trillion each year in clean energy projects worldwide by 2050 to ensure that global warming is limited to 2 degrees Celsius.
The first green bonds were issued in 2007 by development banks. As of 2012 we were seeing investments of around $2 billion, by 2013 that grew to $11 billion and by 2014 it was around $36 billion. In 2014 three green bond indexes were launched (S&P Green Bond Index; Bank of America; Barclays Bank and index creator MSCI).
In 2015 there was $42 billion worth of green bonds issued. These bonds have grown quickly over the past few years and as reported by the EDF, in 2016 they are forecasted to reach about $50 billion.
Green bonds have become a powerful means for corporations to broadcast their environmental credentials. Apple issued $1.5 billion in bonds earlier this year dedicated to financing clean energy projects at its facilities worldwide. New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued $500 million in green bonds and Georgia Power issued $325 million to support investment in renewable energy.
As reported by Sustainable Business, in 2015 the World Bank issued $3.1 billion in green bonds including $600 million in fixed-rate 10-year green bonds. The Oslo Stock Exchange began listing green bonds. SunEdison’s yieldco TerraForm Power, issued $800 million for 8-year junk bonds. Other top issuers were European Investment Bank with $5.6 billion in Climate Awareness bonds, German Development Bank KfW with $3.5 billion and GDF Suez with $3.4 billion. Toyota issued $1.75 billion, French Development Bank AfD issued $1.3 billion and Iberdrola issued $1 billion in green bonds. Vestas wind energy also issued green bonds.
“We are convinced that green bonds play an important role in unlocking the green market capital that is necessary to finance the transformation to a cleaner and more sustainable future,” states Stefan Reiner, Director in Corporate Finance and responsible for the bond business of German development banks,
Mexico has successfully used green bonds as a financing mechanism to reduce emissions. In 2014 the Huffington Post reported that Africa will issue one billion in green bonds. In March 2015 the first Green Bond issued in Asia easily raised $500 million.
Some early concerns related to green bonds are being addressed including the lack of standardization. In January 2014 a group of leading banks took preliminary steps to create standardization in the market by issuing something called Green Bond Principles. As explained by Ceres’ Mindy Lubber: “As standards get stronger, we’ll see more growth in the market.”
Groups such as Green Bond Principles and the Climate Bonds Initiative are giving investors the tools they need. To see a report and guide from Lloyds Bank on green bonds click here.
Green bonds are a game changer. Growth in the green bonds sector is evidence that banks are starting to see the potential of low carbon infrastructure projects. If a fraction of the 80 – 90 trillion bond market were diverted to green bonds it would significantly advance climate finance.
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