In the corridors and sessions at the UN climate talks in Lima over the past two weeks, there has been extraordinary power and energy. We’ve seen material action as the financial sector starts to transform how it thinks about long-term risk. Coalitions are working together on tax reform, regulatory reform, and putting a price on carbon, and country after county is saying that they have been able to clean up their regulatory framework and put themselves in a position to grow.
The more the world urbanizes – and we’re forecast to be 70 percent urban-dwellers by 2050 – the more critical clean, efficient, safe transportation becomes. Access to better jobs, schools, and clinics gives the poor a ladder out of poverty and towards greater prosperity.
But transport as we know it today, with roads clogged with cars and trucks and fumes, is also a threat. We have inefficient supply chains, inefficient fuels, and a growing car culture, with all the congestion, lost productivity, and deadly crashes that brings. Urban air pollution exacerbated by vehicle traffic is blamed for an estimated 3 million deaths a year, according to the Global Burden of Disease report, and the black carbon it contains is contributing to climate change. The transport sector contributes 20 percent of all energy-related CO2 emissions, with emissions growing at about 1.7 percent a year since 2000, contributing to the growing threats posed by climate change.
To sum it up, much of today’s transport is unhealthy for people and planet.
Since the launch in 2008, the World Bank’s green bonds have grown quickly and reached an important milestone in August. Earlier, this month, the World Bank launched a US$550 million green bond bumping the total amount of World Bank green bonds issued to over $4 billion dollars since the green bond program began. This milestone prompted us to pause and take stock of the program and the new market it helped start.
As countries move toward a low-carbon, climate resilient future, the appetite for innovative climate finance is growing. One way to fill this financing need is through the capital markets. The World Bank’s green bonds, first launched in 2008, have been recognized as a catalyst for the growing market of climate bonds. This market is on its way to becoming an important source of funding for countries looking to grow in a clean and sustainable manner. A sampling of expected project results – over 165,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reduction benefits per year in Belarus, and 800,000 tons per year in China, reducing vulnerability to climate-related flooding and water scarcity flood events for about 500,000 farmer households in Indonesia, and producing 6MWhs of electricity out of a landfill in Jordan – highlights the crucial role green bonds and other innovative funding mechanisms could play in financing the fight against climate change.
The World Bank started issuing green bonds in 2008, responding to a group of Scandinavian pension funds interested in supporting activities that address mitigation and adaptation to climate. Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) was the lead manager of this inaugural green bond.
Here is a trillion dollar question: How will the portfolios of long-term asset managers like pension funds, foundations and endowments be affected by climate change? These institutions, in contrast to commercial banks, are legally obligated to take a long-term view in managing their returns. A new report by Mercer, a leading consulting and investment services firm, provides the first look at yet another window on the complex consequences of climate change—the implications for strategic asset allocation.
A headline result of the study is the estimated increase of up to 10 % in overall portfolio risk, primarily due to policy uncertainty—equivalent to as much as US$8 trillion by 2030. Traditional equity and bond holdings—usually the most conservative forms of hedging against uncertainty –- are most at risk of underperformance. In contrast, carefully selected investments in climate- sensitive sectors may actually reduce overall portfolio risk.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and UK’s Carbon Trust, along with 14 institutional investors collectively managing over US$2 trillion, funded the analysis, which was carried out by Mercer. The analysis looks at impacts by sector, region, and asset category (bonds, private equity, real estate, etc.) and builds on a set of climate change scenarios out to 2030 developed by the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and the consulting firm Vivid Economics.
In Copenhagen, donor countries pledged to raise US$30 billion in “fast start funds” and an additional US$100 billion a year by 2020 to invest in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Though the commitments are clear, the delivery is uncertain. By the June UNFCCC meetings in Bonn, countries will need to start drafting a set of decisions on the financial architecture to manage and distribute these climate funds.
By embarking on several climate change initiatives, including an assessment of progress in implementing the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) and the revision of its Energy Strategy, the World Bank has positioned itself to play a role in the management of new climate funds. The Bank already hosts several climate related trust funds, including the Climate Investment Funds. It is the trustee of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and its largest implementing agency. The question is whether the Bank should be entrusted with an even larger role in the future of climate finance. If it is going to gain the political support necessary to make this happen, the World Bank must systematically address issues of environmental and social sustainability in its mainstream investments.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the `Transformational Priorities for Africa in a Changing Climate’ as part of the World Bank Group Spring meetings in Washington DC. In my remarks, I spoke on how Africa is often perceived as a place which offers only adaptation opportunities. I argued that the continent offers mitigation opportunities too – especially in the area of deforestation.
We all know that deforestation and forest degradation cause 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By using Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanisms to save half of this, we could reduce global emissions by at least 10%. This translates into a huge potential for Africa.