New products contribute to another record year for sustainable finance

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Sustainable finance continued its upward trend worldwide in 2018, according to figures compiled by BloombergNEF, and U.S. government-backed mortgage provider Fannie Mae again earned the plaudits for its green home loans.

Since records began with the introduction of green bonds – financing instruments with an environmental and/or social benefit – in 2007, the volume of sustainable financing products for investors has risen every year, and last year was no exception.

BloombergNEF says a record $247 billion worth of sustainable financing was made available in 2018 and explained away significantly reduced growth in the issuance of green bonds as driven by a proliferation of alternative sustainable finance products.

While the volume of green bonds issued rose just 5% on 2017, to reach $182.8 billion – compared to growth of 68% 12 months earlier – BloombergNEF said today that the volume of sustainability-linked loans  was up 677% year on year, to $36.4 billion.

Finance costs dependent on green performance

Sustainability-linked loans have a variable cost that will rise and fall in line with the sustainability performance of the borrower, as with the €4 billion credit line taken out by French energy firm EDF in November.

France was also cited in today’s BloombergNEF announcement for its continued issuance of green sovereign debt instruments to raise funding for environmental and social projects.

With Belgium and Ireland joining the list of nations using such debt instruments for the first time last year, Aiman Mallah, a Sustainable Finance Research Analyst at BloombergNEF, dismissed concerns the majority of funding needs of any government could be deemed to have a social purpose.

“These governments are raising the debt to meet national and international environmental goals, particularly on climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said the analyst.

US and China lead the way

The $19.8 billion contribution made by the green mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae – the U.S. Federal National Mortgage Association – helped the States again lead the world for sovereign green bonds, with a total $45.4 billion. Fannie Mae’s green mortgages are linked to homes built with green building certificates or modified to reduce water and energy use.

China was the world’s second largest green bonds issuer, with $25.5 billion, and 2018 saw Hong Kong and Japan launch programs to incentivize sustainable finance as well as the European Commission working on a green bond standard.

Calls for U.K. local authorities to be given the power to issue green bonds, however, received a lukewarm response from Energy Minister Claire Perry, who told London’s Energy Live Expo event in October that there was nothing to stop councils – impoverished by years of austerity policies – doing just that.