A raft of developing countries are considering selling bonds earmarked for environmental projects, potentially accelerating growth in a market seen as crucial to efforts to keep global temperatures in check.
France and Poland have in recent months become the first sovereigns to issue ‘green’ bonds, previously the domain mainly of development banks and companies.
Among the hundreds of financiers that descended on London for a major green bond conference on Monday, there were hints that other governments such as Kenya and China are planning to help scale up this market to meet a 2015 pledge by world leaders to limit global warming this century to below 2 degrees Celsius.
West African powerhouse Nigeria is set to be next, having last month unveiled plans to launch a local currency green bond in April. But further east on the continent similar plans are being hatched.
The governor of the central bank of Kenya, Patrick Njoroge, told Reuters that there will be a sovereign debt issue “down the road” to follow a fast-approaching private sector initiative from a number of banks.
“We have a huge pool of investors and you would hope that with time this would become a fashion. There is no other show in town, it has to be green,” Njoroge said at the event hosted by London-based non-profit Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI).
Speaking earlier to an audience, Njoroge said that emerging markets were not the biggest contributors to climate change, but they were feeling the most pain through events such as droughts.
The appeal of green bonds appears to be spreading across Asia, too.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, Kwangchul Ji, a director in the Korean finance ministry, said there was “interest” from both his government and the private sector on green bond projects.
Nearby China has been the driving force behind the rapid expansion of the green debt market, which CBI estimates grew by more than $80 billion globally last year, the best year since inception around a decade ago.
Tracy Cai, the founder of Beijing-based sustainability consultancy SynTao, said that green bond issuance from China alone is estimated to reach $60 billion in 2017 and should include its first such sovereign bond.
At 7 billion euros, France’s green bond in January was the largest to date, trumping a record set by China’s Bank of Communications which sold a 30 billion yuan ($4.35 billion) two-tranche issue in November 2016.
OECD studies suggest annual green debt issuance worldwide will need to rise to $620 billion-$720 billion by 2035 if the G20 is going to meet its climate change targets. The studies are based on the average capital mix — equity, loans and bonds — of green projects.