EU issues 'green' investment guide to help combat climate change

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission sought to boost the flow of private money to tackle climate change on Tuesday by publishing guidelines on what qualifies as environmentally friendly investment, in a move welcomed by the financial industry.

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

The European Union has agreed to substantial reductions of carbon emissions by 2030 and its executive, the Commission, wants the bloc to reduce them to zero by 2050 to help stop global warming, the rise of average worldwide temperatures.

To cut emissions by 2030, many sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, agriculture and energy, require an extra annual investment of between 180 and 290 billion euros and even more is needed to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

“Making this transition will require nothing short of massive investment,” Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters.

“Public money will simply not be enough,” he said.

The Commission said the purpose of its 414-page report was to generate more private investments or redirect existing funds and to help reach the emissions targets.

While many investors want to put money in sustainable businesses to help stop climate change or market financial products they sell as “green”, it is difficult to decide which and to what extent business activities qualify.

The guidelines exclude coal and nuclear power from sustainable investments.

BNP Paribas Asset Management welcomed the publication as a key development in improving green finance, saying it was committed to use the guidelines in its green investments.

“It will benefit investors, companies and the public sector, and is a major step forward in defining green financial products,” BNP Paribas fund manager Helena Vines Fiestas said.

The report, referred to as a taxonomy, is a mass of graphs, tables and methodologies to determine whether an investment is green.

Generally, the criteria set in the Commission guidelines seek to identify businesses that can make a substantial contribution to one of the EU’s six environmental objectives without being detrimental to any of the others.

These objectives are climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources, transition to a circular economy, waste prevention and recycling, pollution prevention and control and protection of healthy ecosystems.

“When issuing bonds and loans, issuers can have access to better borrowing conditions if investors believe that a bond or loan can contribute to the de-carbonisation of their loan book or their investment portfolios,” a section of the report said.

“Likewise, those bonds or loans aimed at improving a company or entity’s environmental footprint, including expanding their taxonomy-related activities, might benefit from preferential treatment of investors,” it said.

The Commission also published separate guidelines on what standards a bond marketed as “green” should meet and on climate-related benchmarks for company reporting. ($1 = 0.8936 euros)

Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; additional reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Alissa de Carbonnel; editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Dale Hudson