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Briefing Paper No. 23/2016
Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Bonn
The year 2015 seems to have been an historic turning point in combatting climate change. Not only did the world agree on the first universal climate agreement, but the United Nations established the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. Implementing the Paris commitment means limiting global warming to below 2°, striving even for 1.5°. In practice, this implies the radical decarbonisation of our economies, which entails fundamental changes in the financial world towards what has been termed “green finance”. Green finance represents a positive shift in the global economy’s transition to sustainability through the financing of public and private green investments and public policies that support green initiatives. Two main tasks of green finance are to internalise environmental externalities and to reduce risk perceptions in order to encourage investments that provide environmental benefits. The major actors driving the development of green finance include banks, institutional investors and international financial institutions as well as central banks and financial regulators. Some of these actors implement policy and regulatory measures for different asset classes to support the greening of the financial system, such as priority-lending requirements, below-market-rate finance via interest-rate subsidies or preferential central bank refinancing opportunities. Although estimations of the actual financing needs for green investments vary significantly between different sources, public budgets will fall far short of the required funding. For this reason, a large amount of private capital is needed. However, mobilising capital for green investments has been limited due to several microeconomic challenges such as problems in internalising environmental externalities, information asymmetry, inadequate analytical capacity and lack of clarity in the definition of “green”. There are maturity mismatches between long-term green investments and the relatively short-term time horizons of savers and – even more important – investors. In addition, financial and environmental policy approaches have often not been coordinated. Moreover, many governments do not clearly signal how and to what extent they promote the green transition. In order to increase the flow of private capital for green investment, the following measures are crucial. First, it is necessary to design an enabling environment facilitating green finance, including the business climate, rule of law and investment regime. Second, the definition of green finance needs to be more transparent. Third, standards and rules for disclosure would promote developing green finance assets. For all asset classes – bank credits, bonds and secured assets – voluntary principles and guidelines for green finance need to be implemented and monitored. Fourth, because voluntary guidelines may not be sufficient, they need to be complemented by financial and regulatory incentives. Fifth, financial and environmental policies as well as regulatory policies should be better coordinated, as has happened in China.
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