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Green bonds: New study shows extraordinary growth and signals potential in financing Europe's climate and environment goals

A "Study on the potential of green bond finance for resource-efficient investments" released by the European Commission today shows that green bonds have enjoyed extraordinary growth, since they were first issued in 2007.

The study also identifies key bottlenecks and measures to overcome them so they can fulfil their huge potential. The study comes out two days after the Commission's "Clean Energy for All Europeans" package which finds that an extra EUR 177 billion is needed annually from 2021 onwards to reach the 2030 climate and energy goals.

In 2012 USD 2.6 billion of green bonds were issued globally. By 2015 total issuance had multiplied to USD 41.8 billion. It rose to USD 74.3 billion by end of November 2016. European and Chinese issuers make up largest share of the climate-aligned bonds market globally. In Europe, France and UK are the biggest issuers. In light of the global commitment to shift to a low carbon economy, the green bond market is likely to continue to grow, attracting more diverse issuers and investors. It can be an additional source of long-term green financing next to bank lending and equity financing.

The study identifies the lack of green project pipelines as well as the absence of a green bonds definition and framework as holding back development. But there are many good practices in EU Member States and beyond to overcome these and other limitations. Examples of public sector measures range from 'soft measures' such as raising awareness and capacity building to more stringent approaches such as mandatory disclosure of green indicators for bond issuances and investments.

The study also looked into standardisation. Many stakeholders stress the importance of standards to ensure that the proceeds from green bonds are used for genuinely green projects with clear and measurable environmental objectives. Market-led initiatives are developing strongly in this area. The study advises supporting a common European Green Bonds Standard building on existing market-led initiatives.

Today, green bonds mainly finance projects in renewable energy (45.8% of the issuance globally in 2015), energy efficiency (19.6%), low carbon transport (13.4%), sustainable water (9.3%), and waste & pollution (5.6%). Green bonds are thus one important financing instrument to deliver on the ambitions of the Energy Union Package "Clean Energy for all Europeans", published on 30 November 2016.

A green bond is differentiated from a regular bond by its label, which signifies a commitment to exclusively use the funds raised to finance or re-finance "green" projects, assets or business activities. Green projects are projects that promote progress on environmentally sustainable activities. Green bonds provide an opportunity to mobilize capital for green investments helping investors to make informed and explicit decisions. Green bonds are a means of attracting new investors and hence mobilizing liquidity for green investments.

For More Information

All documents on the Clean Energy package

Fact sheet: Putting energy efficiency first: consuming better, getting cleaner

Fact sheet: Achieving global leadership in renewable energies

Fact sheet: Providing a fair deal for consumers

Press release: State aid: final report on sector inquiry into capacity mechanisms

Fact sheet: State aid: final report on sector inquiry into capacity mechanisms

Energy Union Strategy

European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI)