Sovereign Green Bonds to address the climate challenge

Sovereign issuers have a long tradition of financial innovation to attract investors and adapt to their needs, as witnessed for example by the inflation-linked products launched in the 1980’s. While the objective to address the negative impact of climate change has been shared by governments across the world, they have not been directly involved in the emergence of Green Bonds as an asset class over the past ten years. It was often mentioned that the technical and legal characteristics of Green Bonds were not adapted to the principles and constraints of public budgeting and accounting systems. This situation changed over the past 12 months when three governments successfully issued Green Bonds: Poland in December 20161, France in January 20172, and Fiji in October 20173. The transactions met strong and sustained Interest from investors (France has already re-taped its January Green Bonds). However, these issuances did not come without efforts and extensive preparation, as the legal, financial and technical hurdles were particularly high. The costs associated with the preparation of the transactions and the monitoring / reporting on projects until redemption should not be underestimated. The World Bank has played a central role in the emergence of the Green Bond market, launching in 2008 the "Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change" to help stimulate and coordinate public and private sector activity to combat climate change, and issuing its first Green Bond the same year. Since then, the Bank has issued over USD 10.2 billion equivalent in Green Bonds through more than 135 transactions in 18 currencies4. It has also been sharing its experience with client governments to help them prepare financial transactions that address the climate challenge, as illustrated by Fiji being the first emerging country to issue a Green Bond.