Category: Climate Finance

Climate risk disclosure picks up steam: Roundup of developments in UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand

Climate risk disclosure picks up steam: Roundup of developments in UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor

Late summer 2020 has seen a flurry of activity relating to climate risk disclosure requirements, frameworks and consultations, with several milestone announcements and in the last few weeks from Australia, the US, and New Zealand in particular. We bring these announcements together here, as well as highlight a UK consultation on climate risk governance and reporting in pension schemes, closing 7 October 2020.


On September 14th, a set of guidelines on physical climate risk assessment and disclosure was launched in Australia by The Climate Measurement Standards Initiative (CMSI). The CMSI is an Australian industry-led collaboration established to assist with, and support, climate-related financial disclosures. CMSI involves insurers, banks, scientists, reporting standards professionals, service providers and supporting parties.

The CMSI has recommended financial disclosure guidelines and developed scientific scenario specifications for the purpose of disclosure of scenario analyses for climate-related physical damage to buildings and infrastructure. The open-source guidelines are voluntary, and provide Australian banks, financial institutions and insurers with robust scientific and technical information on how to assess the risk of climate-related damage associated with a set of acute and chronic risks. The guidelines aim to allow Australian firms to determine their physical risks from these extreme events in a credible and consistent way, and to disclose physical risks under the TCFD recommendations. Importantly, this guidance sets out a potential framework for regulation of climate risks, should regulators decide to mandate disclosures in Australia.

Involved parties include: QBE, Suncorp, IAG, RACQ, NAB, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, HSBC Australia, Munich Re, Swiss Re, Leadenhall CP, MinterEllison and Investor Group on Climate Change. The new CMSI guidelines can be downloaded here.

New Zealand

All eyes were on New Zealand this month as well, when the Government announced plans to make climate-related financial disclosures mandatory for certain firms, on 15 September. The Cabinet agreed to introduce a mandatory regime through an amendment to the 2013 Financial Markets Conduct Act. Disclosures would be required from around 2023, if approved by Parliament, on a ‘comply-or-explain’ basis. At present, around 200 entities in New Zealand would be required to produce climate-related financial disclosures in line with the TCFD recommendations:

  • All registered banks, credit unions, and building societies with total assets of more than $1 billion;
  • All managers of registered investment schemes with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management;
  • All licensed insurers with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management or annual premium income greater than $250 million;
  • All equity and debt issuers listed on the NZX; and
  • Crown financial institutions with greater than $1 billion in total assets under management.

Read more about this announcement on the New Zealand Government website, which provides links to useful climate risk assessment guidance documents, such as those from the IIGCC and UNEP FI.  

United States

There is emerging evidence that key organisations in the United States are starting to understand climate risk as a financial risk. Specifically, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) released a report on 9 September 2020, entitled: Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System. The report, produced by the Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee of the Market Risk Advisory Committee is the first of-its-kind effort from a US government entity.

The work was instigated by CFTC Commissioner Behnam, and comes after the CFTC announced in 2019 that a climate sub-committee of the Commission on climate risk would be established. Commissioner Benham recognised the global progress toward climate risk supervision, not least by the network of 60+ central banks and supervisors (known as the NGFS) who are sharing best practice on the matter. The US is not yet a member of the NGFS, and though some states, private sector actors and financial institutions have been assessing and disclosing climate risks, the federal government progress on this is sluggish.  

The report brings together a set of over 50 recommendations to mitigate the risks to financial markets posed by climate change. Though regulation of climate risk and mandated disclosure is perhaps a ways off in the US, and in many other countries, this landmark report could help pave the way for improved oversight of climate risks, in particular as the report finds that Existing statutes already provide U.S. financial regulators with wide-ranging and flexible authorities that could be used to start addressing financial climate-related risk now. The full report can be downloaded here.


In late August, the UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) put out a consultation which seeks views on policy proposals to require trustees to address climate risks and opportunities. In particular, this would be for trustees of larger occupational pension schemes and authorised schemes. It also invites responses on proposals to disclose these in line with the recommendations of the international industry-led Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

It is proposed that among the activities required would be calculating the ‘carbon footprint’ of pension schemes and assessing how the value of the schemes’ assets or liabilities would be affected by different temperature rise scenarios, including the ambitions on limiting the global average temperature rise set out in the Paris Agreement. The disclosures would be required to be made publicly available, referenced from the schemes’ Annual reports and Accounts, and pension savers informed of the availability of the information via their annual benefit statement.

The consultation closes on 7 October 2020, and more information on responding to the consultation can be found here.

Cover photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash.

How banks are trying to capture the green transition

How banks are trying to capture the green transition

By Tomaso Ferrando and Daniel Tischer

Private sector banks in the UK should have a central role in financing climate action and supporting a just transition to a low carbon economy. That’s according to a new report from the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics.

Framed as a strategic opportunity that climate change represents for investors, the report identifies four specific reasons why banks should support the just transition. It would reinforce trust after the financial crisis; it would demonstrate leadership; it would reduce their exposure to material climate risks; and it would expand their customer base by creating demand for new services and products.

The report is not alone in its attempt to put banking and finance at the centre of a green and just transition. Similar arguments are presented by the World Bank, by the European Union, and by many national task forces on financing the transition, including the UK’s.

In all these cases, banks and financial markets are presented as essential allies in the green and just transition. At the same time, the climate emergency is described as a chance that finance cannot miss. Not because of the legal duties that arise from international conventions and the national framework, but because banking the green transition could help reestablish public legitimacy, innovate and guarantee future cashflow.

Twelve years after the financial crisis, we may be aware that banks and finance were responsible for the intensification of climate change and the exacerbation of inequality, but such reports say our future is still inexorably in their hands.

Is there no alternative to climate finance?

Four decades on from British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s infamous motto that There Is No Alternative to the rule of the market, the relationship between financial capital and the green and just transition is presented as universal and inevitable. However, a vision of the future is a political construction whose strength and content depend on who is shaping it, the depth of their networks and their capacity transform a vision into reality.

Nick Beer / shutterstock
UK banks haven’t recovered their reputation since the financial crisis.

In the case of climate finance, it seems that a very limited number of people and institutions have been strategically occupying key spaces in the public debate and contributed to the reproduction of this monotone vision. In our ongoing research we are mapping various groups involved in green financial policymaking: the EU’s High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance and its Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, the UK Green Finance Task Force, the participants to the 2018 and 2019 Green Finance Summits in London and the authors behind publications like the LSE’s Banking on a Just Transition report.

Across these networks, key positions are occupied by current and former private industry leaders. Having done well out of the status quo, their trajectories and profiles denote a clear orientation in favour of deregulation and a strong private sector.

Often, the same people and organisations operate across networks and influence both regional and national conversations. Others are hubs that occupy a pivotal role in the construction of the network and in the predisposition of the spaces and guidelines for dialogue and policy making. This is the case, for example, of the Climate Bond Initiative (CBI), a relatively young international NGO headquartered in London whose sole mission is to “mobilise the largest capital market of all, the [US]$100 trillion bond market, for climate change solutions”. Characterised by a strong pro-private finance attitude, CBI proposes policy actions that are infused by the inevitability of aligning the interests of the finance industry with those of the planet.

Let’s unbank the green and just transition

COVID-19 has emphasised the socio-economic fragility of global financial capitalism and represents the shock that may lead to an acceleration of political processes. While corporate giants are declaring bankruptcy and millions are losing their jobs, governments in Europe and across the global north continue to pump trillions into rescuing and relaunching the economy in the name of the green recovery.

Political debate and positioning will decide whether these public funds will be spent on bailouts or public investments, on tax breaks for the 1% or provision of essential services, or whether the focus will be on green growth or climate justice. But private finance is already capturing this debate and may become a key beneficiary. Getting a green and just transition does not only depend on the voices that are heard, but also those that are silenced.

Intellectual and political elites on the side of the banks are making it harder to have a serious discussion about addressing climate change. NGOs and campaign groups are participating, but only if they share the premises and objectives of the financial sector.

This crowds out more transformative voices from civil society and the academy, and establishes a false public narrative of agreed actions despite the numerous voices outside of this club. And it also normalises the priority of financial market activities, putting profit before people and planet.

The current crisis is an opportunity to rethink what a green and just transition would entail. We must continue to question the role of finance rather than taking it for granted and ensure that the “green and just transition” becomes precisely that: green and just, rather than another source of profits for banks and the 1%.

This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash
Call for members of the EU Sustainable Finance Platform, new Taxonomy Regulation, and closing public consultations – EU sustainable EU sustainable finance update part 2

Call for members of the EU Sustainable Finance Platform, new Taxonomy Regulation, and closing public consultations – EU sustainable EU sustainable finance update part 2

By Robin Hamaker-Taylor

The European Commission is continuing to progress the implementation of their Action Plan for Financing Sustainable Growth. New reports have been published, regulations have been established, and more are on the way. Much of this recent activity has implications for financial institutions. This is the second of a two-part article series that aims to round up these developments.

This article narrows focus to newly adopted EU regulations on the Taxonomy, the European Bond Standard, the European Green Deal, and a consultation on the updated EU Sustainable Finance strategy. The first article looked at the developments relating to the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy and impending regulation, and is available here.

Be sure not to miss the calls and consultations linked throughout this article, several of which end in mid-July 2020.

EU Taxonomy Regulation is adopted and call for members of the Sustainable Finance Platform

On 18 June 2020, European Parliament adopted the EU Taxonomy Regulation (TR). The TR creates a legal basis for the EU Taxonomy and sets out the framework and environmental objectives for the Taxonomy. It will be supplemented by delegated acts*, due to be established in 2020-2021. These acts will contain detailed technical screening criteria for determining when an economic activity can be considered sustainable, and hence when activities can be considered Taxonomy-aligned.

To help the Commission prepare the technical screening criteria and develop the taxonomy further, the Commission has launched a call for applications for members of the Platform on Sustainable Finance. This platform will be an advisory body composed of experts from the private and public sector, according to a Commission press release. Platform members will also advise the Commission on the further development of the EU Taxonomy to cover other sustainability objectives and provide advice on sustainable finance more broadly.

The deadline for applications is 16 July 2020. For more information on the Platform on Sustainable Finance and how to apply, please visit: Register of Commission expert groups – Calls for applications.

*Delegated acts are legally binding acts that enable the Commission to supplement or amend non‑essential parts of EU legislative acts, for example, in order to define detailed measures. Read more about the proposed timeline for EU Taxonomy delegated acts and what they mean for climate risk disclosures in part one of this two-part series.

European Bond Standard

The European Commission is exploring the possibility of a legislative initiative for an EU Green Bond Standard in the context of the public consultation on the renewed sustainable finance strategy. That consultation is running from 6 April to 15 July 2020. A targeted consultation on the establishment of an EU Green Bond Standard, that builds and consults on the work of the TEG, and is running for an extended period of 16 weeks between 12 June and 2 October 2020.

Based on the outcome of these two consultations, as well as ongoing bilateral stakeholder dialogues, the Commission will take a decision in Q4 2020 on how to take the Green Bond Standard. Read more about the EU Green Bond Standard here.

European Green Deal and sustainable finance

The European Green Deal is the EU’s roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable and make the EU climate neutral by 2050. It includes actions to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and restore biodiversity and cut pollution, according to the European Commission’s dedicated Green Deal website.

The Green Deal outlines investments needed and financing tools available, and explains how to ensure a just and inclusive transition. Climate Action is one of nine policy areas of the Green Deal. Under the Climate Action umbrella, the Commission is proposing to establish the first European Climate Law which makes it a legal requirement for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050. On the adaptation and resilience side, the Commission will adopt a new, more ambitious EU strategy on adaptation to climate change in early 2021, according to the Commission. The aim will be to strengthen efforts on climate-proofing, resilience building, prevention and preparedness, ensuring that businesses, cities and citizens are able to integrate climate change into their risk management practices. A public consultation will inform the design of the new adaptation strategy.

The EU recognises that Climate Action will require alignment of many key areas, including sustainable finance. While the EU will fund climate action itself, it expects that its efforts in establishing the Taxonomy Regulation and implementing the will also boost private sector investment in green and sustainable projects. So while the Green Deal may seem like a parallel initiative, it is very much intended to align with the EU’s current efforts to make finance and the wider economy sustainable.

Consultation on the renewed sustainable finance strategy

The European Commission is currently consulting on an update to the 2018 sustainable finance strategy. Building on the 2018 Action Plan on financing sustainable growth, the renewed sustainable finance strategy will provide a roadmap with new actions to increase private investment in sustainable projects and activities to support the different actions set out in the European Green Deal and to manage and integrate climate and environmental risks into our financial system. The initiative will also provide additional enabling frameworks for the European Green Deal Investment Plan. The public consultation is open until 15 July 2020.

Cover photo by Marius Badstuber on Unsplash
Why climate resilience bonds can make a significant contribution to financing climate change adaptation initiatives

Why climate resilience bonds can make a significant contribution to financing climate change adaptation initiatives

By Maya Dhanjal

There is a rising cost associated with economic damages related to climate change with 2019 being the most expensive year to-date and expected to only get worse. Governments who are mainly responsible for providing this funding are strapped in their ability to mobilise and manage emergency funds. Resilience bonds provide a unique opportunity to hybridise principles in debt securities and insurance policies and ultimately divert available funds into climate-resilient projects that will enhance adaptive capacity, particularly for long-lived infrastructure assets that have to face the test of time and a changing climate.  Conceptualised in a RE.bound white paper  back in 2015, the resilience bond has now been successfully put into practice .

Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe thanks to climate change. In 2019 alone, the world stood witness to devastating bushfires in Australia, Venice’s worst flooding in 50 years, and Japan’s biggest storm in decades. In 2019, the United States of America, where data on cost incurred per natural disaster is most available, suffered 409 natural catastrophe events resulting in economic losses of $232 billion.

2010 to 2019 was the most expensive decade of global economic losses resulting from events caused by climate-related natural disasters, exceeding $2.98 trillion – $1.19 trillion higher than the preceding decade.

Given these numbers, the most pressing question is: Who bears the cost of such damages? Taxpayers? Businesses? The insurance industry? Historically, the cost of damages to the environment, such as pollution, have been treated as an “externality” in our economic models – continuously passed onto those who can least afford it, not to mention those who least contributed to it. As the frequency and associated costs of catastrophic climate-induced disasters increase over time, governments are finding themselves in a reactionary position, and strapped in their capacity to disburse emergency funds, let alone manage and coordinate them.

This is not exclusive to climate-related events – in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19, developed nations worldwide are expected to provide a financial stimulus which will only further tighten their hands and potentially purse strings from a fiscal policy perspective. So how will governments manage financing the exorbitant and rising costs of climate change? One solution is to transfer the risk to capital markets via a resilience bond.

What is a resilience bond?

Resilience bonds are a novel insurance product developed and authored in 2015 by re:focus partners in collaboration with other members of RE.bound. They were inspired from catastrophe (or “cat”) bonds which are a debt instrument designed to raise capital for insurance companies (who arguably are the best-equipped at handling risk of loss, translating hazard into damage and damage into cash) in the event of a natural disaster under a trigger event, such as an earthquake or tornado. In the case of resilience bonds, the capital raised would be specifically earmarked for projects that increase resilience to climate change, such as sea walls to combat sea-level rise or building shelters in cyclone- and typhoon-vulnerable areas.

If you got confused reading the first sentence of the above paragraph and asked: “wait – how can resilience bonds be an insurance product?”, you have come to the right place.

Let’s take a step back and quickly review bonds: bonds are a fixed income/debt instrument that an issuer (such as a government or large corporation) sells to raise capital for projects. These projects typically require large sums of liquid cash that the issuer does not have on-hand but needs, so they go to the capital markets to obtain it. When the issuer sells the bond to investors, they raise that liquid cash needed to cover a project. Issuers are now happy. Over the lifetime of the bond, issuers will provide interest (aka “coupon”) payments to the investor which incentivises investors to have parted with their liquid cash in the first place. More often than not, this means that once the bond has matured, investors not only receive back their principal investment but also the accrued interest over of the lifetime of the bond which results in a return on investment. Investors are now happy.

Now that we have covered how a bond works, we can apply the above principle to understand how a resilience bond raises capital for climate-resilient projects. However, what happens if a trigger event occurs over the lifetime of a resilience or cat bond? That would naturally disrupt the interest payments that an investor is due to receive until maturity, so how does pay-out work? This is where the insurance policy bit kicks in and why resilience and cat bonds, albeit have the word “bond” in the title, do not operate like traditional treasury or municipal bonds.

Similar to an insurance policy, once a trigger event such as a typhoon or flood occurs, the resilience bond will pay out cash to those who can cover the costs incurred from economic losses, which as previously mentioned are typically insurance companies who would be best equipped to manage and disburse proceeds from the resilience bond. Is it still worth the investment to investors if the bond will not pay out money to them after a trigger event? In one sense it would be twisted for an investor to look forward to a pay-out of funds after a catastrophic climate event. In another sense, investors who put money into climate-resilient projects that will likely withstand harsher conditions and still economically provide after a trigger event will be considered a smarter investment in the long run.

Re:focus authors best explain that just as a life insurance policy has reduced premiums for interventions that reduce overall risk (such as quitting smoking or exercising regularly), resilience bonds have reduced premiums for climate-resilient interventions that reduce economic losses from disasters over the term of an asset (such as seawalls or flood barriers). So, what is a marriage of sorts between a fixed income instrument and an insurance policy, resilience bonds respectively not only provide financing for projects that aim to increase resilience, they also provide a certain coverage against climate-induced disasters. However, as the re:focus authors warned, just as life insurance does not actually make you physically healthier, resilience bonds do not actually reduce physical risks, rather they reduce the financial consequences for asset owners. 

How does a resilience bond raise money for climate-related disasters?

To understand how a resilience bond reduces the financial consequences for assets owners, it is imperative to review how a resilience bond is priced. Issuers use financial models to determine the price of resilience bonds on two levels: in the situation where a trigger event (which has a predetermined threshold, such as a 10-foot surge or $1 billion in economic losses) occurs with the resilience project, and in the situation where a trigger event occurs without the resilience project. Since a resilience project by nature will reduce the chances of a trigger event incurring damages, resilience bond investors are willing to accept a lower coupon payment after the project is completed (lower risk = lower coupon payments). This difference in coupon payments (with versus without a resilience project) therefore represents the financial value of a resilience project which is captured in the form of a resilience rebate. This resilience rebate will ultimately be used to finance risk reduction investments which includes covering economic losses from a trigger event and alleviating the burden from budget-constrained governments to cover these vast costs.

Not only do resilience bonds provide a reduced investment risk to investors once a project is complete, they also provide financing to governments for risk reduction investments that will reduce exposure and build resilience over the long-term.

Say there is no trigger event over the lifetime of the bond –  investors recoup their principal investment as well as their regular coupon payments under the “bond” principle. Now, say there is a trigger event over the lifetime of the bond – policyholders of the bond will retain the full value to pay off the losses, leaving investors either a portion or none of the cash they initially invested under the “insurance policy” principle. This does not sound ideal for an investor to lose all of their investment; however, this article will conclude with why an investor in their right mind would engage with this capital markets product in the first place. For the meantime, it can broadly be said that investors of resilience bonds are typically institutional investors with large, diverse, and robust portfolios, and have a higher risk appetite for a higher return on their investment.

The world’s first resilience bond

The first resilience bond was issued in 2019 by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD): a five-year climate resilience bond rated AAA (by Moody’s/S&P/Fitch) at 1.625% which raised US$700 million. The first orderbook’s distribution statistics saw demand from 15 countries (58% from Europe, 28% from North America and 14% from Asia) from over 40 accounts (32% asset managers, 31% central banks/official institutions, 28% banks, 9% insurance and pension funds).

The bond was actually oversubscribed by $200 million which demonstrates strong investor appeal so much so that the demand exceeded the supply. As mentioned earlier that bond proceeds must be earmarked for specific resilience projects, EBRD has developed a €7 billion portfolio of adaptation-related projects under which funding can be made available, including climate-resilient infrastructure (such as the Qairokkum hydropower plant in Tajikistan), climate-resilient business and commercial operations, and climate-resilient agriculture and ecological systems (such as the Saiss water conservation project in Morocco).

The bond is also aligned with the four core principles of the Green Bond Principles including: use of proceeds, process for project evaluation and selection, management of proceeds, and reporting. By having these overarching principles, the climate bond market demonstrates and actively promotes integrity, transparency, disclosure, and reporting. It would be difficult to name one institutional investor or pension fund that does not have a demand for that kind of data. Not only does the EBRD bond adhere to the Green Bond Principles, but the projects earmarked for the “use of proceeds” are aligned with the Climate Resilience Principles (CRP) by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI). Fun fact: CBI convened an Adaptation and Resilience Expert Group of which our own Acclimatise CEO, John Firth, sits on. As EBRD was the first issuer to use the CRP to structure their climate resilience bond, EBRD gained the first-mover advantage which will hopefully motivate others to support climate resilience.

As amazing as this innovation is, one recurring and fair concern investors have on the climate bonds market is the monitoring, reporting and evaluation of the bond proceeds, and whether the bonds truly do demonstrate attractive, if not stronger, returns – which leads us to the future of climate bonds.

The future of climate bonds

Given this financial product has not been around long enough to amass robust data, it is hard to gauge the value of the resilience bonds market. However, on pace with other green products, the climate bonds market has an estimated value of $346 billion, while the cat bonds market has an estimated value of $30 billion. Therefore, the demand for resilience bonds is expected to grow rapidly.

There are likely an array of reasons why demand is rising. We are seeing an increased demand from institutional investors and fund managers with an appetite for stable or ESG-integrated investments. Institutional investors (who are the primary buyers of climate bonds) are pouring money into green investments for the following reasons:

Climate bonds offer an attractive interest rate.

An interesting phenomenon is happening in Europe at the moment – there is around €15 trillion of bonds trading at a negative interest rate. Think about that. A bond offering a -0.5% interest rate? It seems weird to have negative rates (meaning the investor has spent more money for a bond than its value), but that is the reality. In fact, earlier last week, the United Kingdom government for the first time in history sold a treasury bond that pays a negative yield. And negative-yielding bonds typically lose money for bondholders. Climate bonds, on the other hand, are not trading at a negative rate and with negative interest rates expected to stay down in the economy at the moment, bond markets are making resilience bonds more attractive to investors.

Climate-resilient projects are financially viable and will make money.

Although climate bonds are on par with other bonds (meaning they are not necessarily cheaper or more expensive), they are rated the same way as other bonds. When rating agencies such as Moody’s or S&P assign credit ratings to bonds, they are concerned with default risk or missing interest payments because their rating is based on cash flow generation – not environmental or climate factors. To assess cash flow generation, rating agencies look at the financial health of the issuer. Issuers will receive a credit rating, and given that many issuers are governments (for example EBRD’s AAA-rated climate resilience bond was backed-up and guaranteed by the European Bank), rating agencies will assign AAA status which is the highest rating due to the little chance of default.

Investors have an increasing moral appetite to invest in ESG-related products

Ceteris paribus, the opportunity cost of investing into a climate bond is relatively the same when compared to investing into another debt security. However, climate bonds are emerging as a preferred investment because of the moral aspect – investors want to see their money put towards climate change and resilience. What with markets crashing from COVID-19, many are realising that money needs to be spent more mindfully to ensure we prevent massive pay-outs that could have been avoided down the line. This realisation is evident with the rise of many industry-led initiatives that champion climate integration into financial systems and services, such as signatories to the UNEP FI Principles for Responsible Banking, Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures pilots, Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, Global Reporting Initiative, Network for Greening the Financial System, Principles for Responsible Investing, and more. In fact, pension funds who have a fiduciary duty to consider climate-related risks are growing their appetite for these kinds of products such as Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) with $420.4 billion AUM who issued their inaugural green bond back in 2018. And more recently than that, a BlackRock study this week found that in the first quarter of COVID-19’s market drop, 94% of sustainable indexes outperformed traditional ones. The data is starting to catch up to investor ears and they are listening.In conclusion, resilience bonds are an innovative capital markets product that possess the ability to finance climate change adaptation by providing liquid cash for risk reduction investments, as well as actively build resilience while providing a return on investment to investors. They are inspired from cat bonds and work similarly to insurance products rather than traditional bond products, yet resilience bonds (unlike cat bonds) have earmarked proceeds for resilience projects, which can be aligned with the Climate Resilience Principles. Having these industry-wide initiatives such as CRP and even the Green Bond Principles ensure transparency and provide more data to investors who are increasing their appetite for ESG-related products. The first climate resilience bond was issued by EBRD and its oversubscription is another clear indication of the strong demand (particularly across Europe and Asia from governments and institutional investors) for these green products. This demand, alongside the financial strength and growth of the broader climate market in general (such as green bonds or ESG investing) and their outperformance of other products, indicate the potential of climate resilience bonds as an effective tool to build resilience. Although climate bonds have yet to establish themselves as a systemic response and solution to the changing climate of both our world and global economies, they represent progress towards a future that is aligned with the Paris Agreement and a resilient future with adaptive capacity to deal with the extreme effects from climate change.

Sources used:

Cover photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash.
GCF readiness efforts in the Caribbean: Learning from practice

GCF readiness efforts in the Caribbean: Learning from practice

A new learning paper by Acclimatise provides an insight on the lessons learnt from implementing Green Climate Fund (GCF) Readiness projects in the Caribbean and aims to inform future Readiness efforts in the region or globally.

The Caribbean is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change with many island nations and coastal communities facing rising sea levels and more extreme and frequent weather events. The GCF is well-positioned to help the Caribbean alleviate climate-induced impacts by providing funding to build Readiness, invest in high-impact projects and develop the capacity of the small island developing states (SIDS) to collectively address and tackle some of the biggest issues in the region. This paper seeks to build the knowledge base of how the Caribbean can successfully build capacity in the region by informing future efforts on GCF readiness, making aware the challenges that are unique to the region and continuing to help Caribbean countries battle the effects of climate change.

Authored by our own Virginie Fayolle, the learning paper titled “Capacity Building of the National Designated Authority (NDA) and Preparation of Country Strategic Framework – Belize, The Bahamas and Guyana”, discusses the key success factors and challenges of meeting the learning outcomes set out by the Delivery Partner, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), as well as the lessons learnt from delivering readiness projects across the Caribbean, particularly in Belize, The Bahamas and Guyana. Valuable inputs and feedback from the CCCCC team were provided.

Across the three countries, there were a number of successes and challenges which can inform future readiness efforts. Early and inclusive engagement efforts with national stakeholders, strong coordination and collaboration between NDAs and UNFCCC focal points (if both are not under the same ministry), and a strong emphasis on capacity building and hand-holding of the NDA and existing/potential project proponents had led to a more informed country dialogue and promoted buy-in in the identification of the country’s GCF investment priorities. In addition, the convening power of the NDA and broader awareness-raising activities were critical in mobilising a more diverse group of stakeholders through the readiness activities, including amongst non-governmental and non-expert stakeholder groups (e.g. private sector). However, human and technical capacity within the NDA teams, limited representation of non-governmental stakeholders during the readiness consultation and engagement activities (such as indigenous peoples, women’s associations or private sector) were key challenges faced throughout the readiness activities with adverse implications in terms of their engagement downstream in the subsequent design, financing and implementation phases of GCF projects and programmes.. In most countries, project pipelines are often immature, and this is often exacerbated by the complexities and high upfront costs of completing funding applications. The timeline and budget for the delivery of the readiness activities are often underestimated and do not consider the frequent changes in GCF policies and procedures, lengthy feedback time, as well as uncertainties linked to ongoing country institutional changes.

As a result, the recommendations for the CCCCC and its role as the Delivery Partner for GCF Readiness, as well as for future readiness efforts in the region, include:

  1. Increased focus on the long-term sustainability of capacity-building activities (such as strengthening national institutions to become GCF-accredited) by investing time in the initial stages, building credibility with partners, and developing the pipeline of investment-grade projects,
  2. Strengthening human capacity, particularly new skills and expertise, within NDAs so they are well-informed to make swift decisions on appraising concept notes and/or funding proposals, continue professional development of staff, and better coordinate GCF-related activities within the region and/or country,
  3. Ensuring sufficient resources for outreach and communication activities so as to gain traction with new audiences, develop a social media presence for the dissemination of relevant updates about the NDA and GCF funding opportunities,
  4. Setting a realistic timeframe and budget for the delivery of the readiness support considering impactingfactorssuch as frequent GCF policy changes, potential election periods or uncertainties in countries from institutional changes, and
  5. Capturing and disseminating best practices and lessons learnt from the implementation of country-level readiness efforts such as the no-objection procedure or country programme to further strengthen the knowledge foundation that future efforts can build off of.

Read the full report here.

Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Podcast: four countries working together to get climate finance to the local level

Podcast: four countries working together to get climate finance to the local level

Article by IIED,

Government and non-government institutions in Senegal, Mali, Tanzania and Kenya are working out the best and most inclusive way to get funding for sustainable climate investment to the local level. Members of this devolved climate finance alliance share their experience in a new podcast.

While no countries will be spared the negative impacts of climate change, developing countries, particularly the least developed, will experience the effects most keenly. Their location, economic reliance on natural resources and limited capacity to respond to climate hazards, all play a part. 

These same factors also lead to people on low incomes being critically affected. Without an adequate response, the climate crisis is likely to entrench or deepen existing poverty.

By signing up to the Paris Agreement, the global community has committed to protecting vulnerable people, communities, and sectors from extreme weather events. Countries worldwide have agreed to build resilience through helping their citizens to adapt to climate change.

Millions of dollars are being mobilised by governments, businesses, and individuals for this purpose, but the question is: how can it get to where it matters, to those communities and people who need it most?

In the third instalment of the ‘People, Planet and Public Finance’ podcast, by IIED and the International Budget Partnership, IIED researcher Emilie Beauchamp and Bara Gueye, former director of IED Afrique in Senegal, discuss a new mechanism for getting public money to the local level; a mechanism that accounts for the need to reduce financial risk and ensure accountability.

What is stopping money getting to where it matters?

First is the fact that, despite countries committing millions in climate finance money, much of it has not yet been paid. Of the money that has been paid, only around US$1 in $10 is reaching the local level.

Then there’s the question of whether all governments know how to integrate climate actions with their planning. It requires accurate risk assessment and predictions to be done before decisions can be made.

For that to happen, the right people must be involved, and that is not always the case. Local communities, local businesses and local authorities are often left out of conversations.

How can that change?

IIED and IED Afrique in Senegal have been working alongside organisations in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali, as part of the Devolved Climate Finance Alliance to design a robust and inclusive way to invest in climate adaptation, using climate finance.

In this podcast, Beauchamp and Gueye describe the process and the mechanism that has resulted, with a focus on Senegal. They consider what has worked well and the challenges that remain: how, for example, can it be made sure that all parts of society are able to voice their needs, when some people – men, for example – are used to making decisions for all?

And while much has been achieved, in all four countries, more needs to be done, which will take time, especially if the participatory approach, key to the mechanism, is done in the right way.

As Beauchamp says: “Countries and donors need to be open to long-term programmes and to different ways of managing, money and relationships – open to new ways of doing development”.

To mark Earth Day on 22 April, IIED researcher Florence Crick highlights the work of the DCF Alliance, and Adaptation Consortium coordinator Victor Orindi profiles work in Kenya that is helping to increase ambition on climate action

People, planet and public finance

Previous episodes of the ‘People, planet and public finance’ podcast have focused on how countries can “green” their budgets and how much are people and families spending to address climate impacts.

The latter features IIED chief economist Paul Steele and Shaikh Eskanderm from Kingston University London, the authors of ‘Bearing the climate burden: how households in Bangladesh are spending too much‘. It focuses on their disturbing findings on what poor rural households in Bangladesh are spending of their own money to deal with climate catastrophe, how these families’ future prospects and security are being hurt, and what governments and the international community should do.

  • Find out more about how IIED is researching the benefits and challenges of getting development and climate finance flowing to the local level through its Money Where It Matters programme.

This article was originally posted on the IIED website.
Cover image from Climate Visuals, Creative Commons licensing.
Lessons learnt on enhancing country ownership through GCF Readiness

Lessons learnt on enhancing country ownership through GCF Readiness

By Caroline Fouvet

The 2019 United Nations gathering on climate change (COP25) was an occasion for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to present its latest developments and activities. The Fund’s Readiness programme, aimed at fostering countries’ capabilities to engage with the Fund, was presented. As a result of the programme, beneficiary countries are able to strengthen their climate finance-related capacity, engage stakeholders in consultative processes, realise direct access to the GCF, access GCF finance, and mobilise the private sector.

Stakeholders directly involved in implementing GCF Readiness spoke about their experience at a GCF side event on 9th December, and how the programme had helped their countries become ready to access climate finance.

A representative from the Kingdom of Tonga’s National Designated Authority (NDA) explained how the country ensured its ownership of the Readiness programme by involving their Ministry of Finance as a delivery partner (DP). As most of GCF DPs are usually international entities, having Tonga’s Ministry of Finance responsible for the management and implementation of GCF Readiness funding constitutes an important achievement for the country’s ownership of the climate finance it receives.

Input from Fundacion Avina, a Latin American philanthropic foundation, focused on lessons learnt from their implementation as a DP of the readiness programme in Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Peru. Securing country ownership of GCF finance often implies enhancing national climate governance, educating stakeholders on climate change and what a suitable project is for the Fund, as well as taking into account a country’s local circumstances.

Finally, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) shared their experience of implementing Readiness support in Mongolia.  The GGGI representative stressed that the programmes’s objective was, first and foremost, to “help the governments to help themselves”, and that the role of international organisations such as GGGI was to provide technical assistance to government and sub-government entities to directly access climate finance. In Mongolia, GGGI contributed to the set-up of the Mongolia Green Finance Corporation (MGFC), which aims to ultimately blend GCF equity funding with international and Government finance, along with funding from national commercial banks.

On the road to ensuring low-carbon and climate-resilient growth to developing countries, it seems that building their own capacity to access climate finance constitutes the linchpin of country ownership. Programmes such as GCF Readiness empower countries to take control of their own development while ensuring its climate alignment.

Acclimatise has provided capacity building to Belize, Guyana and The Bahamas within the framework of their Readiness activities, and is about to support the second Readiness phase in Belize.

Cover photo provided by Caroline Fouvet of Acclimatise.
Climate change adaptation is the “biggest investment opportunity of this generation,” says new UNEP FI report

Climate change adaptation is the “biggest investment opportunity of this generation,” says new UNEP FI report

By Will Bugler

The UNEP Finance Initiative launched last month a technical background paper on adaptation finance which identifies barriers and opportunities for scaling up financing for climate change adaptation and resilience building. The paper, ‘Driving Finance Today for the Climate Resilient Society of Tomorrow’ refers to adaptation as “the biggest investment opportunity of this generation” with huge investment needs to build social and economic resilience.

The report was authored by an expert team led by Stacy Swann and Alan Miller of Climate Finance Advisors, with contributions from a review panel that included Acclimatise CTO Dr Richenda Connell and CEO John Firth who were joined by other experts from banking, investment, insurance, academia and government.

The release of this paper is a prelude to the first flagship report of the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), which is due to be presented on the 23rd September. Launched last year, the GCA aims to accelerate adaptation action, raising it up the political agenda and encouraging bold solutions such as smarter investments, new technologies and better planning.

The ‘Driving Finance Today’ paper identifies the barriers to scaling up financing for adaptation which include weak policies and conventions in the financial industry and a low technical capacity for climate risk management amongst others. It reflects the fact that despite a great deal of demand for climate adaptation finance, with UN estimates suggesting that by 2030 it will take $140 to 300 billion of investment per year to strengthen the resilience of societies and economies to climate change, progress to mobilise funding has been slow.

The paper also identifies a range of opportunities to accelerate the investment required to prepare the planet for climate change, though these face additional barriers such as the perceived lack of private benefits and the immaturity of business models. It presents six recommendations, with illustrative case studies, to promote resilience investment:

  1. Accelerate and promote climate-relevant financial policies;
  2. Develop, adopt, and employ climate risk management practices;
  3. Develop and adopt adaptation metrics and standards;
  4. Build capacity among all financial actors;
  5. Highlight and promote investment opportunities; and
  6. Use public institutions to accelerate adaptation investment.

Collectively, these recommendations provide the outline of a program that is ambitious, actionable, and can directly impact how finance can be unlocked for adaptation and resilience.

Download the UNEP FI / GCA background paper on adaptation finance here.

Listen to the webinar held for the launch of the paper here.

Climate adaptation: its time is now

Climate adaptation: its time is now

By Sam Greene

Adaptation is finally on the map. The climate change narrative has long been heavily skewed towards mitigation – on how to curb further climate risk and avoid pushing our planet towards climate crisis. But recent years – and months – have seen adaptation climb the political agenda, no longer the ‘poor cousin’ of mitigation.

The forming of the high-profile Global Commission on Adaptation led by former UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva and Bill Gates has upped the ante with urgent calls for bolder solutions for managing climate risks. The UN secretary-general’s climate summit will take place in September, bringing together world leaders from government, business, finance and civil society to discuss transformative climate initiatives. The Egypt and UK-led resilience and adaptation track will focus on integrating climate risk into government and private sector thinking preparing for climate disasters effectively, and considering how vulnerable groups can recover from disasters faster.

But to be responsive to the priorities of the most vulnerable, these high-level international dialogues must be grounded in the real world.

The community of practice on community-based adaptation (CBA), grown collectively by IIED and partners, has connected local-level adaptation solutions with international dialogues on climate change for almost 15 years. This community has been working to get local adaptation priorities to the heart of discussions on climate change – long before the recent international calls for urgent action.

The CBA top three

Over the years, the CBA community has honed in on three areas:

  • Getting finance to countries so they can implement their adaptation projects and programmes
  • Transferring technology that will help climate vulnerable communities adapt, and
  • Improving adaptation policies so they recognise the challenges faced by vulnerable people most affected by climate change.

These three pillars are politically important – internationally recognised as crucial for delivering the Paris climate agreement. But they also form a platform for local people to demand what they need to solve their own climate problems.

Last month, the CBA community gathered in Addis Ababa to share their experiences of adaptation and discuss how to make change more effective.

Delegates raised concerns that amid the new enthusiasm for adaptation, mistakes of the past could persist whereby priorities of the most vulnerable will continue to be overlooked. The community of practice that gathered for CBA13 recognised this challenge and together developed three sets of compelling messages that include tangible, practical solutions for creating locally-driven change.

Financing that is fit for purpose

The system for delivering climate finance where it is needed does not work. Not only is there not enough funding, but the systems for transmitting that funding are inadequate.

Most large-scale funds such as the Green Climate Fund are inaccessible to countries that need them most, while bilateral funding is often too short term or too small scale to create lasting impact. Only 18% of adaptation financereaches the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), and only 10% of adaptation finance reaches the local level where it can address, with community input, the local drivers of poverty, natural degradation and climate vulnerability.

Devolved climate finance as practiced by the National Drought Management Authority through the Adaptation Consortium, and climate responsive social protection programmes such as the Hunger Safety Net Programme (both Kenya-based) are working examples of what can be achieved with sustained, patient funding.  

Programmes trialling these approaches have succeeded by building on existing systems (rather than creating new ones), and building the capacity of different actors to take the lead.

These kinds of systems can create the pipelines to enable at least 70% of climate finance to reach the local level, a demand put forward by the LDCs to the international community.

Searching for the unicorn

The differing views on the private sector from CBA participants demonstrate the need for clearer thinking and communication on how private sector funding can be mobilised for widespread adaptation.

Some see the private sector as “the unicorn” of adaptation – often talked about, but rarely seen. But others see real potential for private sector investment in the many smallholder farmers on which developing economies depend.

It is critical for projects seeking to leverage the private sector to include such institutions from the very beginning, to ensure their market knowledge and expertise can inform and support innovation. Good examples of success do exist and from which we can learn, such as the Solar Home Systems Initiative by IDCOL, and microinsurance schemes such as AfatVimo (PDF) in India.

Inclusive policies

Policies can supercharge adaptation interventions, creating the conditions for programmes to work. But to do so they must include a wide range of voices. Priorities of women and young people continue to go unheard in policy discussions. Yet governments often do not have capacity, sufficient resource or indeed the motivation to carry out inclusive discussions on a large scale.

Failed development interventions tell us that a business-as-usual approach cannot continue – we need new systems and mechanisms to bring all community members into discussions that inform policy design.

This is particularly crucial for National Adaptation Plans, with the potential to guide countries toward climate-resilient futures. But they are often driven and funded by multilateral agencies. Instead, they need to be led by government institutions that have the convening power and resources to bring different actors together and to break away from the siloed, sectoral approaches of the past.

One example is the Bangladesh Academy for Climate Services, which brings together scientists, policymakers and communities. Another is an online resilience platform, TCHAD-AGORA, that enables users to share their experiences and continue informal discussion directly with policymakers.

Technology: integrating gender and traditions from the past

The technology to adapt to climate change is, in many cases, already available. Getting it to the people that need it most, with the knowledge of how to use it at scale, is the challenge.

We must integrate new technologies with traditional methods from the past, many of which have adapted to their context and are fundamental to sustaining local ecosystems.

Respect for traditional technologies and methods encourage locally led, bottom-up networks or ‘ecosystems’ of actors for innovation that bring multiple types of technical knowledge together rather than the ‘solutions looking for a problem’ approach often seen in practice today.

Gender analysis must become a fundamental tool of the technology trade. The design of new technologies must recognise the different priorities of men and women, how they spend their time, socialise and generate income. How gender-sensitive a technology is will determine how well it is taken up by women and men. Practical Action’s renewable energy for smallholders project in Zimbabwe has demonstrated the effectiveness of gender-sensitive approaches.

The CBA community of practice: an invaluable resource

These messages from practitioners on finance, technology and policy add more nuance and greater legitimacy to the messages that the CBA community of practice have long been calling for – that communities must be at the centre of efforts to shape their own resilient futures. Those most at risk must be given higher, broader platforms through which to advise and advocate.

As the Global Commission on Adaptation continues its work, and the UN climate summit gets set to push adaptation further into the limelight, there is opportunity for a dramatic shift in the way adaptation and development is done.

These international processes must take on board the knowledge and experiences of the CBA community. And there is an open invitation to mine this invaluable resource as we seek to build a climate-resilient future.

Cover photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash.
This article was originally published on the IIED blog.
London Climate Week: Getting private finance on track to achieve Paris Agreement’s objectives

London Climate Week: Getting private finance on track to achieve Paris Agreement’s objectives

By Caroline Fouvet

One of London Climate Week’s first events was organised by the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) in association with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and focused on “Driving private finance to achieve 1.5-degree objectives”. It was an occasion for the CPI to hold panel discussions on the current needs and challenges to mobilise sufficient private finance in the context of the Paris Agreement. The event also showcased innovative ideas focused on enhancing private sector investments in climate mitigation and adaptation that were developed as part of CPI’s Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance (the Lab).

CPI’s latest Global Climate Finance assessment shows that global climate finance flows amounted to USD 463 billion on average per year over the 2015-2016 period. This amount is mostly driven by the private sector, representing 54% annually for 2015/2016, including project developers, corporations, and commercial banks. Besides, over 94% of this amount was allocated towards mitigation, leaving only USD 22 billion to adaptation.

However, more resources are needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s dual target when it comes to climate-related finance. Its objectives are both to make “finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development” (article. 2.1c)” as well as to provide “financial   resources   to    assist    developing   country   Parties   with   respect   to   both   mitigation   and   adaptation” (article 9).

The event looked at how to scale up the private sector’s finance flows to tackle climate change in both developed and developing countries through two panel discussions. The first panel focused on how to unlock investment for climate action in infrastructure and mobility. It gathered representatives of a wide spectrum of organisations, from the public sector represented by the UK department for business, energy and industrial strategy, the European Investment Bank (EIB), and to private organisations Bank of America Merrill Lynch and asset managing firm Legal & General Investment Management. Discussion points included:  

  • Panellists stressed that the present climate challenge is huge and urgent, as we currently are on a 3.5-degree pathway.
  • They further underlined the complementarity of public and private action in terms of climate finance, as private investors need to be supported by public policy to further mitigation and adaptation action. It was acknowledged that climate-related regulations for the financial sector, such as Bank of England’s and from the European Union, were useful to raise awareness on climate change and created a powerful momentum in the industry to address the issue. As for developing countries, panellists mentioned that there was a need for greater support from Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) to de-risk investments, and that climate and development aid flows should be regarded as similar types of finance.
  • Overall, a recurrent obstacle for private finance to flow towards adaptation remains the difficulty to quantify it, whereas mitigation projects offer clearer targets and are hence easier to invest in. An option could be the concept of avoided costs, that can be useful to capture adaptation-related benefits. This however entails understanding which cities, for instance, are vulnerable to and requires public consultations on the matter.
  • Private sector participants also mentioned their current action in the climate finance space. Bank of America Merrill Lynch representative mentioned the bank’s work with private equity firms to shift their investments to provide support to climate disruptive companies. Legal & General Investment Management explained that they both worked with investors to help them transition their portfolio away from brown assets, but also engaged with investee companies who develop their own climate strategies and make their own climate investments.

The second panel discussion focused on the Lab’s laureates and the investment solutions they had developed. This session was an occasion to show that a wide variety of financial instruments and mechanisms, including debt, leasing and private equity, could be used to finance climate action. They included:

  • The Water Financing Facility: it mobilises large-scale private investment from domestic institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, by issuing local currency bonds in the capital market in support of their own country’s national priority actions on water and sanitation service delivery. It is currently engaged with 14 water providers worldwide and has been active in Kenya for three years. Its ultimate target is to reach USD 1 billion of local currencies in five to eight countries.
  • Cooling as a Service (CaaS) initiative – by the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE): it aims to scale up investments in energy efficient service facilities. Its business model aims to enable customers to base their decision on life-cycle cost rather than on the purchase price of cooling equipment. The goal is to help clients benefit from high end and energy efficient cooling technologies without the need of an upfront investment. CaaS involves end customers paying for the cooling they receive, rather than the physical product or infrastructure that delivers the cooling.
  • Climate Resilience and Adaptation Finance and Technology Transfer Facility (CRAFT) – by the Lightsmith Group: CRAFT is a private equity fund focused on climate resilience and adaptation. It aims to invest in 10-20 companies, located in both developed and developing countries, which have proven technologies and solutions for climate resilience and have demonstrated market demand and revenue. It provides blended finance and includes a concessional capital layer to mitigate risk and a technical assistance facility to support companies in developing countries. It also measures impact against Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Climate Action in Financial Institutions and gender-related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Restoration, insurance, service companies for coastal risk reduction (RISCO) – by Conservation International: this is a social enterprise that invests in mangrove conservation and restoration in areas with high-value coastal assets, enabling property damage risk reduction and protecting blue carbon. RISCO assesses and monetises the coastal asset risk reduction value and carbon storage benefits of mangroves. It works with insurance companies, to embed mangrove risk reduction values into insurance models for coastal properties and allows for reduced premium prices. A portion of the premium savings, or other insurance-related revenue, is paid by coastal asset owners to finance the upfront cost of the conservation and restoration projects. RISCO also generates and sells blue carbon credits to organisations seeking to meet voluntary or regulatory climate targets.
  • Responsible Commodities Facility – by Sustainable Investment Management (SIM): coordinates a suite of activities to promote the production and trade of responsible commodities in Brazil, starting with soy and corn. It provides competitive (low interest) credit lines for producers that meet Eligibility Criteria, i.e. do not contribute to deforestation.

Cover photo Secretary Kerry addresses delegates at COP21 / Wikimedia Commons