International finance associations, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank Treasury issued their first green bonds in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The issuance of the green bonds provided investors with liquid, fixed income investment options that supported climate-focused and environmentally friendly projects.
The Main Objectives
Among other goals, such projects aim to achieve biodiversity conservation, sustainable water management, and clean transportation. The market reached a turning point in 2013 as the first corporate green bonds were issued, increasing the market size to $11bn. In 2016, over $81bn in green bonds were issued, driven in part by an increase in issuers, issue types, structures and investment vehicles.
Moody’s suggested that the global green bond issuance may rise to approximately $208bn in 2017.
This is indeed a very likely outcome as the expansion of green bond types and structures continues to attract multiple potential issuers, including China. The country is expected to contribute around $60bn in green bonds issued in 2017.
In recent months, France and Poland became the first countries to issue sovereign green bonds. Countries likely to follow suit in 2017 include Bangladesh, China, Luxembourg, Morocco, Sweden, and Nigeria. Africa’s powerhouse, Nigeria, plans to be one of the first African states to float sovereign green bonds to fund sustainable projects in the economy.
At the Green Bonds Capital Market & Investors Conference, the acting President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Asinbajo, stated that arrangements were being made for the inauguration of the first African Sovereign Green Bond, worth some 20 billion nairas, to address climate change and environmental projects.
Some of the projects to be financed include a solar unit distribution program for 20 states of the federation and a reforestation program for 26 states. With solar power becoming the world’s cheapest source of energy for electricity, this presents opportunities for investments and diversification, which could cut significant costs for organisations as the nation works towards bouncing back from recession. Whether or not the green bonds will be oversubscribed may depend largely on incentives and regulation of the bonds.
Putting the Money to Good Use
In November, Masen (Morocco’s Agency for Sustainable Energy) issued Morocco’s first ever green bond of €106m. The proceeds from the bond issue will be used to finance the development of 170 MW in the NOOR PV1 project, providing solar power through three plants.
Other African states, including Kenya, are gearing up to take be active in the green bond markets as they work towards supporting the 2015 pledge by world leaders to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius this century.
A Positive Outcome
Apart from potential tax incentives, African states may be able to achieve more sustainable growth in relatively early stages of development in contrast to more developed states. The introduction of the issuance of green bonds increases the priority for sustainable development on the continent, thus encouraging African countries to avoid the mistakes (in sustainable development) that developed economies made in their infancy.
A potential challenge for African states hoping to attain finance for funds through green bonds is the size of the projects and their financing needs. The size of the projects may need to be increased in order to ensure that they are more attractive.
Although the issuance of green bonds is growing fast, it is still less than $1trn, a tiny fraction of the $90trn global bond market. OECD studies suggest that the global annual green bond issuance will need to rise by between $620bn and $720bn for the G20 to meet its climate change targets.
The standards set for issuers of green bonds should also be considered. Higher standards may direct the efforts made by countries and organisations that hope to become issuers in the green bond market. They will encourage accountability and transparency that will promote more suitable allocation of capital to funding projects.
Critics cite the relatively weak reporting in the green bond market. Coupled with uncertainty on what constitutes a green bond, this may be a deterrent to investors.
Nevertheless, progress is being made in this regard. China and India have already led the way with unique guidelines to support the issuance of green bonds. Similarly, African states will benefit greatly from policy frameworks based on their distinct markets.
Sentiments regarding the sustainable development of economies continue to set the pace for organisations and policy makers in various countries across the globe who hope to remain competitive for investors and other stakeholders.
The numbers do not lie and a shift of winds has already taken place. Individuals and groups must adjust with urgency. Recently, the S&P Dow Jones Indices, the world’s leading provider of index-based concepts, data and research, announced the launch of the S&P Green Bond Select Index. It will measure the performance of green-labelled bonds issued globally.
The wave of change is here, but the real question to consider in the midst of this change is: who will ride it with grace?