Sustainable finance: International standards are important

Berensmann, Kathrin
External Publications (2020)

in: Development and Cooperation (10/2020), Online


 Paris Climate Agreement. Standards for when a financial product can be considered sustainable must be clearly defined and internationally agreed.
Standards and criteria are needed to determine when a financial instrument is sound and sustainable. Such standards improve transparency and strengthen investors’ trust. The criteria enable investors to differentiate between “green” and “non-green” activities and distinguish related financial instruments.
In addition, financial institutions themselves need standards for “green” financial instruments for purposes of internal budgeting, accounting, performance measurement and environmental risk management. Of course, standards also enable policy makers to design tax breaks and subsidies in ways to ensure that financial instruments truly support sustainable development. On the other hand, if the criteria defining “green” financial instruments are too strict, they can impede development of products such as green bonds. In order to reap the full benefits of standards, different standards should be coordinated at an international level. It does not make sense for each country using its own definition of what a “green bond” is.
The European Union has addressed these problems. In 2018, the European Commission (EC) drew up an Action Plan for financing sustainable growth, including a strategy for a sustainable financial system (EC 2018).

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