Written by Stefano Spinaci,
The dramatic consequences of climate change and environmental degradation have brought the need for a more sustainable economy to the top of the agenda. Transforming the EU economy to make it more sustainable requires large investments, especially for enabling a green and low-carbon transition. Given that the public sector alone cannot cover this financial need, solutions have been sought to bring the private sector on board. Green finance involves collecting funds for addressing climate and environmental issues (green financing), on the one hand, and improving the management of financial risk related to climate and the environment (greening finance), on the other. Sustainable finance is an evolution of green finance, as it takes into consideration environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and risks, with the aim of increasing long-term investments in sustainable economic activities and projects.
The European Union is a global leader in the above domain. In its 2018 action plan on financing sustainable growth, the European Commission set out the EU strategy to connect finance with sustainability. The first deliverables have been three key regulations seeking to create a classification system to determine whether an economic activity is environmentally sustainable (the ‘taxonomy’); to make disclosures relating to sustainable investments and sustainability risks clearer; and to establish low-carbon benchmarks. The Taxonomy Regulation is particularly important for driving the consistent development of future legislation, as advocated, in particular, by the European Parliament. The Commission will release a renewed sustainable finance strategy in 2021, and a legislative proposal on the green bond standard.
The interest in green and sustainable finance is rising very fast among investors worldwide, and several voluntary private initiatives have tried to create some market standards. Policymakers have also been very active in launching numerous regulatory and non-regulatory initiatives at global or local level. To avoid market fragmentation, there is a demand for greater harmonisation among the different measures. There is also a need to increase the standardisation and disclosure of non-financial information published by companies and used to evaluate the risks. Doing so will help to increase data availability, to make data more comparable, and to bring more transparency and clarity to investors. Given that climate change and environmental degradation are global challenges, international cooperation is in the common interest; the European Union is actively promoting this through the International Platform on Sustainable Finance.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Green and sustainable finance‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.
Listen to policy podcast ‘Green and sustainable finance’ on YouTube.