France praised as green finance pioneer

23 Nov 15

France has been named a world leader in green finance ahead of pivotal climate talks in its capital city next week.

The United Nations Environment Programme and the Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE) have commended both the public and private sectors in France for successfully integrating sustainability factors into their financial architecture over the last two decades.

Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, said: “France is part of a growing catalogue of examples around the world where sustainability is being factored into private and public financial decision making.

“This shift in financial considerations is an element of the collective ambition we are seeing from all corners for a sustainable future. More than this, it demonstrates the accelerating momentum towards sustainability we will need to build on in Paris to tackle climate change.”

In a report titled France’s Financial (Eco)system: improving the integration of sustainability factors, UNEP and I4CE said France has successfully grown its climate finance by €6bn between 2011 and 2013.

While France’s official policy and regulatory framework take some credit, it said there is a broad “ecosystem” of commercial, public sector and non-profit actors who have played a key role.

It cited growing attention to environmental, social and governance issues over the past 15 years in France and an oversight-based approach as significant.

France has improved the availability of information by developing a comprehensive set of reporting measures that target both the financial sector and the companies it finances.

Investors must disclose their contribution to energy transition, institutions must disclose their exposure to climate-related risks and plans for climate factors are included in bank stress tests.

Other countries leading the way in the run up to COP21, which kicks off on 30 November, include Morocco. The country has pledged to get half of its electricity from renewables by 2020, leaving many far richer countries behind in ambition.

Morocco has been 98% dependent on fossil fuels, but will now start to harness its wind, water and solar capacities to turn the country into a renewable energy powerhouse.

Next month it will open the first phase of what will be one of the world’s biggest solar thermal power plants, spanning 35 football fields. At completion, the mirrors that will capture the Saharan sun and use its heat to melt salt will cover the same area as the country’s capital Rabat and will power one million homes.

Eventually the plant, built by Saudi-owned energy company ACWA Power and located in the city of Quarzazate bordering the desert, hopes to have enough energy to export to Europe.

To reach its 42% target however, Morocco has indicated it will need financial support. The same is true for other countries with ambitious climate pledges, including Ethiopia and Costa Rica.

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