OPINION

Unlocking Private Sustainable Finance

    • By,
      Shitiz Jha – Student, Kautilya

A big challenge lies at the crossroads of climate finance- meeting the estimated annual requirement of USD 6 trillion until 2050. Despite increasing private sector investments, the present allocation of USD 630 billion falls significantly short. Green bonds, constituting less than 3 percent of global bond markets, sharply highlight the financial gap. Looking at the landscape of climate finance, the fiscal year 2021-2022 marked a substantial leap, reaching an annual average of USD 1.3 trillion. This surge, primarily fueled by increased investments in mitigation finance, signals a check into the important role played by private sector climate finance instruments. Urgent policy considerations are required to bridge existing gaps.

The annual average of USD 1.3 trillion in 2021 is a substantial increase from USD 653 billion in 2019. This surge is primarily attributed to increased investments in mitigation finance, particularly in the renewable energy and transport sectors. Despite this positive trajectory, growth is uneven across sectors and regions. The surge in global climate finance predominantly stems from significant increments in clean energy investments, concentrated in a handful of geographies. Surprisingly, China, the US, Europe, Brazil, and Japan absorbed 90% of the increased funds. While these signals encourage advancement, substantial climate finance gaps persist even in these key regions. Furthermore, nations grappling with high emissions and climate vulnerability show sluggish progress in meeting their climate finance requirements.

The ever-changing framework in which climate finance takes place complicates problems. Concurrent crises compete for political and financial attention, driving up the cost of capital. However, pressure from both the public and private sectors to transform climate commitments into concrete deployed funding is increasing worldwide. This emphasises the importance of deliberate and planned initiatives to overcome existing gaps and enable comprehensive climate finance mobilisation in the face of complex obstacles.

Conventional bank lending is critical, accounting for around 100% of global GDP each year. However, climate-related issues are not yet incorporated into loan choices, which limits conventional bank financing for climate projects. While some banks recognise climate threats, general acceptance is inconsistent. To bridge the financial gap, a number of instruments can be used by the private sector to address these climate-related challenges:

Green bonds, a popular financing option, have surpassed the USD 600 billion mark in 2021, governed by the Green Bond Principles. While green bonds account for a sizable fraction of climate-related bonds worldwide, their presence in emerging economies is limited, leaving tremendous expansion possibilities. Green loans, which are generally privately transacted and smaller in size, also help finance green projects, with active engagement from organisations such as the International Financial Corporation (IFC) and other development banks.

Social and sustainability bonds, which fund projects with beneficial social and environmental consequences, have experienced significant issuance, exceeding USD 200 billion by 2020. These bonds address issues ranging from poverty and gender inequality to environmental challenges, demonstrating a commitment to overall sustainability.

ESG funds and venture capital both contribute to climate finance. ESG funds, especially climate-labeled funds, have seen significant inflows, which might cut financing costs for companies with good ESG and climate scores. Venture capital, which has invested over USD 200 billion since 2013, provides high-risk finance but is restricted to smaller private firms, affecting initiatives with considerable social and environmental advantages.

Climate financing faces many difficulties in attracting and expanding private sector involvement. A well-designed carbon price is critical for effective emission-reduction plans, but its implementation necessitates additional policies such as laws and financial sector interventions. Emerging and developing economies (EMDEs) like India confront various challenges, including macroeconomic difficulties such as inadequate carbon pricing and national risk. Microeconomic difficulties include long timescales, high upfront costs, and project hazards, which limit mitigation and adaptation expenditures. These constraints result in a small pool of specialised investors for initiatives that require large returns. Despite new funding sources such as green and social impact bonds, dedicated investment vehicles, and insurance, the returns on such projects remain uncertain.

Governments can use a variety of policy tools to encourage private-sector climate investment. The IMF’s monitoring, capacity building, risk assessments, and climate diagnostic tools can all play an important role. The Rapid Support Tool (RST) can serve as a catalyst, with advanced economies underlining the significance of public equity investments as part of their annual $100 billion commitment to EMDEs. Policy goals include reducing data gaps, stimulating R&D, and resolving carbon price gaps. Public sector leadership is critical for investing in low-carbon infrastructure, enhancing data quality, and developing climate information architecture. Robust greenhouse gas accounting and coordinated efforts with the private sector are required. Furthermore, addressing social implications through equitable transition policies and redistribution measures is critical to effective climate finance.

Climate finance led by the private sector is critical to achieving developing economies’ sustainable development goals. The partnership of the public and commercial sectors, aided by supportive policies, is critical for releasing green capital. It is essential to emphasise the partnership’s urgency in order to achieve genuine change. Harnessing the potential of private investment is critical for addressing climate concerns and promoting a transition to a sustainable and resilient future for poor countries. Although annual climate investment demands are huge, the amount required is a fraction of the predicted losses that will occur if we continue with business-as-usual investments that result in global temperature increases well above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.