Ex-UN climate chief calls for green bonds to hit $1 trillion by 2020

Christiana Figueres is urging public authorities and corporates to scale up climate-friendly infrastructure investment by 2020, under the “green bond pledge”

Green bonds aim to make sure infrastructure is built to withstand sea level rise and other climate change impacts, while supporting a low carbon transition (Pic: Flickr/shirokazan)

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Cities and companies are being urged to show their commitment to climate-friendly infrastructure investments by signing a “green bond pledge” launched on Tuesday.

The initiative aims to scale up finance for projects that are resilient to the impacts of climate change and support the transition to a low carbon economy.

Unveiling the pledge in London, former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said green bonds issuance needed to hit $1 trillion a year by 2020 to support international climate goals.

“When green investments move from business plans into budgets and balance sheets a wealth of opportunity will be unlocked across the value chain,” she said.

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres (Photo: UN Photos)

“Organisations committing to the Green Bond Pledge will benefit from these opportunities and help the necessary acceleration of capital flows – before 2020 – to deliver a sustainable future for everyone.”

Figueres is spearheading the campaign as part of her Mission 2020 programme to mobilise short-term action towards the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

The green bond pledge

We agree that all infrastructure and capital projects will need to be climate resilient and where relevant, support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

We welcome the role that green bonds can play in helping to achieve the financing of that infrastructure.  

As a signatory to this pledge, we support the rapid growth of a green bonds market, consistent with global best practices that can meet the financing needs we face and issue, whenever applicable, bonds for infrastructure as green bonds.  

We pledge to support this goal by establishing a green bonds strategy that will finance infrastructure and capital projects that meets the challenges of climate change while transforming our community into a competitive, prosperous and productive economy.

Rahul Ghosh of ratings agency Moody’s told the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) conference he expects $250 billion of green bonds to be issued in 2018, up from $155bn last year.

The pledge builds on CBI’s work to align the $90tn global bond market with climate goals. It has developed guidelines in several sectors for what counts as “green”. For example, buildings must meet certain energy efficiency standards to qualify.

These standards are not universal and criteria are still evolving. CBI does not endorse any kinds of fossil fuel energy applications, while China counts things like efficiency upgrades to traditional power generation as “green”.

Climate and business leaders declared their support for the green bonds pledge.

Figueres’ successor at the UN climate body, Patricia Espinosa, said finance was key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. “Green bonds are among an array of exciting and rapidly growing, new financial instruments that are going to help us get there,” she said.

Indian business mogul Anand Mahindra, who will co-chair a major climate action summit in California this September, agreed: “Greening financial flows now, and over the years and decades to come, can help take climate planning to the next level and in doing so, make a powerful and practical difference to people’s lives.”

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