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sovereign wealth funds

Sovereign wealth funds: the catalyst for climate finance?

Juergen Braunstein's picture



Following the Paris deal on international climate change, governments are beginning to explore new financing mechanisms for investing in the growing low carbon economy. Over the next decade sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) could become an important game changer in green investing. Recognizing the untapped potential of SWFs, two key questions emerge: how can SWFs increase their exposure to green asset classes? And what are the constraints?
 
Investors and financial institutions are becoming increasingly aware of the risks associated with fossil fuel projects and are showing growing interest in green bonds and other financing tools that facilitate investment in low-carbon energy solutions.
 
Being patient investors, with longer term investment horizons than many others in the financial services sector, SWFs could become catalysts for implementing the December 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In the November 2016 annual meeting of the International Forum of Sovereign Wealth Funds in Auckland, participants highlighted that SWFs are particularly well-positioned to become trailblazers in green investment. The majority of members are oil-based SWFs which are looking to economic diversification of their finite carbon wealth into industries and sectors that would yield broader societal, economic and financial benefits.

Will Sovereign Wealth Funds Go Green?

Håvard Halland's picture



Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) currently have a very limited role in climate finance and green investment – reportedly, below the average for institutional investors. According to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), which evaluates institutional investors on the basis of their low-carbon performance, five of the 10 lowest-rated large investment funds were SWFs.

However, the more progressive SWFs are currently divesting from assets with large climate-related risks, and some countries are pondering whether their SWF should take a more pro-active role in green finance. What lies ahead for SWFs in this rapidly changing landscape?
 
SWFs could have an impact on climate finance
 
The sheer amount of capital managed by SWFs means that their impact on green finance, while marginal historically, has the potential to become significant. According to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), SWFs hold assets worth approximately $7.4 trillion, and the total capital of SWFs has more than tripled over the last decade.
 
But SWFs’ mandate does not typically include green finance. To the extent that they have been active in this area, it has been to reduce climate-related risk to their portfolios – including exposure to fossil fuels. For example, last October the $22.6 billion New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZSF) announced a strategy to address climate-change risks that represent a “material” issue for long-term investors, and to “intensify its efforts” in areas including alternative energy, energy efficiency and “transformational” infrastructure. Norway’s giant Government Pension Fund Global ($873 billion) has adopted similar policies to reduce climate-related risk.

Should Sovereign Wealth Funds Invest at Home?

Alan Gelb's picture

Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) represent a large and growing pool of savings and an increasing number are owned by natural resource exporting countries. The funds have a variety of objectives, including intergenerational equity and macroeconomic stabilization. Traditionally they have invested abroad, increasingly in developing country assets, but always as part of a strategy to boost yields while remaining diversified. However, a recent trend sees an increasing number starting to invest in their domestic markets, including in infrastructure and other greenfield investments. Angola, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Nigeria are examples; funds with a domestic investment mandate are also being established by Colombia, Morocco, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Resource-Backed Investment Finance in Least Developed Countries

Otaviano Canuto's picture
In recent decades, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have been using their natural-resources as collateral to access sources of finance for investment, countervailing the barriers they face when accessing conventional bank lending and capital markets.  Depending on whom you ask, such financing models have been alternately vilified and sanctified in the global development debate.

Mongolia needs better roads, schools and hospitals: so why all this talk about saving for the future?

Gregory Smith's picture

Mongolia’s mining revenues are set to soar in the coming years, but here people talk about the need to save for the future.

Surely building infrastructure, educating young Mongolians, improving healthcare and creating jobs is important? Surely by achieving these development goals Mongolia is providing for the next generation? These are great questions. Mongolia must do these things. But they in turn depend on efforts to prevent boom and bust and provide financial assets for future generations. Saving some of the revenues in good times is part of effective natural resource management.

The Optimal Design of Sovereign Wealth Funds

Jamus Lim's picture

Although much of the news flow regarding oil in recent days has focused on the terrible environmental tragedy off the Gulf of Mexico, another oil-related story has occupied the minds of many market analysts: that of rising oil prices, along with the overall increase in the prices of a whole host of commodities, as the global recovery has taken hold.

Should there be common standards for Sovereign Wealth Funds in Asia?

James Seward's picture

Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs), government owned investment vehicles typically funded by foreign exchange surpluses or natural resource revenues seem to be in the news about everyday.  Their massive size, rapid growth, and high-profile investments in the U.S.