Saturday 20 July 2019

'Finance has a big role to play in funding a sustainable future' - How Ireland is putting its green foot first

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Adverse weather events like the storms and floods (and droughts) of recent years have taken place in a world that is one degree warmer than it was 150 years ago.

One degree may seem negligible to some but this change across the globe's surface can cause huge climatic changes, and advocates for a greener planet believe failure to respond to this change will put us all at risk.

The many industries and sectors of the worldwide economy - including energy, water, waste, building, transport and agriculture - could be facing extreme negative impacts if no action is taken.

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, it was agreed upon to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees or less, a massive project that will require either the upgrade of existing infrastructure to be more climate resilient or to build out new low-carbon infrastructure.

This transition, in addition to policy, will also be driven by technological advances, the increasing competitiveness of renewables, energy storage, electric vehicles, smart grid and the increasing connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Furthermore, asset managers and investors not already considering sustainability factors when making investments may be obliged to do so under new proposals.

A legislative proposal is to be put forward by the European Commission by the end of June, making it clear that institutional investors and asset managers have a duty to consider sustainability when they make investments.

The Brussels body estimates that financial losses from extreme global weather events jumped 86pc from 2007 to 2016 to €117bn.

By placing Ireland's green brand, and the country's successes in this area, in the spotlight both home and abroad, Sustainable Nation (SN) believes this will stimulate business opportunities and encourage further innovation and investment.

The recently unveiled government five-year action plan for Ireland’s international financial sector, the IFS2020 Strategy, aims to develop Ireland as a key location for specialist financial services.

This programme includes green and sustainable finance and SN's Year of Sustainable Business 2018 will form a key part this plan. 

Minister for Financial Services and Insurance, Michael D’Arcy said that the race is on to build a low-carbon and sustainable global economy, an ambition which also offers huge economic rewards and builds upon previous initiatives.

"That’s why  Ireland’s  Year of Sustainable Business 2018 represents an unmissable opportunity," he said.

"Ireland was amongst the first countries to make attracting Green Finance a strategic priority, with Government and policy backing since 2012.

"Today, we have €28bn of Green Finance activity already in Ireland and a thriving cluster of activity covering asset management, domiciling and the listing of green bonds."

Read more: What is Green Finance, and how does Ireland fare in the global leadership race?

France as an ally

Ireland's collaboration in green finance with France, and the country's future domestic low-carbon financing needs, was highlighted at the 'Green Embassy Dialogue' event in Paris earlier this year.

Under Emmanuel Macron, the Paris climate change agreement has become a key priority - and top officials and representatives from key French banks and financial groups including BNP Paribas Credit agricole Eruonext and Amundi were in attendance.

"There is already a significant and growing two-way flow between Ireland and France in low carbon investment and innovation," Sustainable Nation Ireland CEO Stephen Nolan said of the event.

"There is a real focus now on supporting international collaboration. A recent example is Dublin and Paris joining other world cities in a UNEP -led network of green finance hubs, the Casablanca Declaration."

Irish located firms are already investing hundreds of millions of euro in developing French-based renewable energy projects.

Amarenco and the group's partners invest in France through Irish-based platforms. The company has completed over €300m of transactions in France in this way.

Furthermore, leading French asset manager Amundi has a shareholding in Irish located KBI Global Investors and recently purchased global asset manager Pioneer, which has a large Dublin presence.

So what happens next?

Global Head of Renewable Energy in KPMG, Mike Hayes, is a non-executive director at Sustainable Nation, and has been involved in renewables since 1999.

"Offshore winds is the big story in Irish renewables. We are the only north western European country who has not developed an wind industry but we have the greatest resource," he told

"That's the way the industry is going, not to say that we do not need solar and onshore wind; to have a successful renewable policy, it's important to be diverse.

"At the moment people think offshore is not going to happen until 2020. But it will happen before then and there are people willing to construct offshore wind farms. What is required is clarity around support of same and clarity around the leasing of the offshore wind site.

In January, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) and German-based operator Capital Stage entered a €140m partnership to invest in the Irish renewable energy market with leading Irish solar company Power Capital.

Read more: These companies are backing Ireland in the green race - but what exactly are they doing?

"It's wonderful to see the ISIF provide active support by supporting a development platform," said Mr Hayes. "ISIF has been a fantastic supporter of the industry and a critical part of the solution going forward." 

Later this year, Ireland will host Europe’s biggest summit on Climate Innovation, during which over 50 nationwide events and initiatives will be held.

Playing host is part of the €1.5m strategy to position Ireland as a global hub for green finance, raise awareness of responsible and sustainable investment and encourage climate aligned innovation by Irish enterprises.

The summit, which takes place in Dublin in November during a specially-themed ‘Climate Week’, will be attended by more than 600 European decision makers.

The country’s co-hosting of the 2018 edition of the EU’s Climate-KIC Climate Innovation Summit will be a key event over the week.

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union, was in Dublin last month, said the signature of the Paris agreement in 2015 "marked a milestone for the world and for the global economy".

"We are now moving towards a low-carbon society, where renewable energy and smart technologies improve our quality of life, spurring job creation and growth, without damaging our planet," he said.

"Finance has a big role to play in funding a sustainable future."

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