Linking Green Bank to UK debt a 'missed opportunity' – UKSIF
UK - Plans to link debt issuance from the UK's new Green Investment Bank (GIB) to the overall decline in the country's deficit have been criticised by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) as a "missed opportunity".
As part of the 2011 Budget, chancellor George Osborne said the new institution would be launched in 2012, a year earlier than planned, but not allowed to issue bonds until at least 2015.
Additional funds would also be made available to it, increasing its assets at launch to £3bn (€3.5bn) from the initially intended £1bn.
Osborne estimated this would allow for an additional £15bn in green investment from the private sector by May 2015.
However, Penny Shepherd, chief executive at UKSIF, said that even the "welcome increase" in capital was well below the £4bn urged by the industry.
She also criticised proposals to link the institution's bond issuance to a reduction in the deficit as a percentage of UK GDP.
"From the point of view of the UK economy, it seems like a missed opportunity, and to suggest we cannot have green growth until the deficit is reduced," she said.
"That the Green Investment Bank should not be seeking to maximise its impact on green growth until the deficit is reduced would seem like putting the cart before the horse."
Shepherd said linking borrowing powers to something that was outside of the bank's influence did not give investors the certainty they needed.
She argued it was clear from the perspective of UK investors that there was increasing interest in green bonds around the globe.
"Therefore," she said, "there are leadership opportunities for green financial services in the City, as well as investment opportunities for pension funds - from those opportunities around the world."
However, Ole Beier Sørensen, chairman of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, praised the plans, saying they came as a sign of the government's commitment to a low-carbon economy.
He added: "Public policy will play a critical role in driving the scale of investment required to meet the UK's clean energy targets.
"This framework will allow institutional investors to accurately assess the investment opportunity and, consequently, contribute to raising the amount of capital at the pace required to renew and upgrade the UK's energy infrastructure."
The government said the additional £2bn now allocated to GIB would come from the sell-off of public assets, with £775m from the sale of High Speed I - the train route linking London to the Channel Tunnel - which was acquired by Canada's CAD$96.4bn (€72bn) Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and Borealis Infrastructure for £2.1bn.