Ebenezer specialises in Development Communication, International Development, Innovative Finance for…
The green economy should not just be about reclaiming throw-away stuff. It should be about reclaiming thrown-away communities. It should not just be about recycling things to give them a second life. We should also be gathering up people and giving them a second chance.————Van Jones, News & political commentator, author, and lawyer
In the last decade, policymakers have put a lot of effort into enhancing green financing with the main purpose of achieving economic growth together with environmental policies that aim to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement stipulated in 2015 that the global average temperature should be maintained below 2°C. This climate change strategy implies a shift to low-carbon investments to allow firms to produce different technology with a view to achieving low greenhouse gas emissions.
In order to reduce emissions, academics and policymakers have suggested the imposition of prices on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases either through price instruments (i.e. a carbon tax) or quantity instruments (i.e. cap and trade). However, green energy sources are expensive and could lead to losses for companies using renewable resources.
There are two major barriers associated with green energy projects: a) a lower rate of return compared to fossil fuel projects; b) a higher risk of investment compared to fossil fuel projects (Yoshino and Taghizadeh-Hesary;2018). Because of the associated risk and due to the Basel capital requirements, many banks are not interested in lending to the green energy sector. Hence we need to look for various financing tools and methods (banking and nonbanking solutions) in order to secure the flow of funds and growth in the green energy sector.
“If you really think the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.”…… Guy McPherson, American scientist
Green finance is defined as financial investment flow (from banking, micro-credit, insurance and investment) from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to sustainable development projects and initiatives, and policies that encourage the development of a more sustainable economy (Lindenberg and UNEP-FI (2014); G20 G F S G, 2016). It is financing investments in all financial sectors and asset classes that integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria into investment decisions and integrate sustainability into risk management to encourage the development of a more sustainable economy.
The Bank of Ghana (BoG) Monetary Committee reported that as at December 2019, total assets of the banking amounted to GHC129.06 billion, representing 22.8% year-on-year growth. The story has since changed and this shows the crucial role universal banks and financial services providers play in allocating financial resources. In Ghana, like in many developing countries, a significant proportion of projects is being financed by universal banks. However, banks’ funding is sometimes used for activities which impact adversely on the environmental quality and social standards. It is estimated that environmental degradation costs Ghana not less than 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (UNEP, 2013).
A sustainable financial system is one that creates, values, and trades financial assets in real wealth-forming ways to meet the long-term needs of an inclusive and well-developed economy. environmentally sustainable.
The two main goals of green finance are to improve external factors and reduce perceived risk. Promoting large-scale and economically viable green finance helps ensure that green investments take precedence over conventional business investments that cause unsustainable growth patterns. Green finance encourages transparency and long-term thinking about investments that are aligned with environmental goals and include all sustainability criteria defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. United Nations (SDGs).
A case for Financial Service Providers
Financial service providers have always been motivated by shareholders’ returns maximization. However, the 2016 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG), the Paris Climate Declaration, the inherent environmental and social risks in banking business, the reality of global warming and climate change coupled with the rising civil society actions as well as pressure from Development Financial Institutions (DFIs), have necessitated the need for banks to explore and act upon the profound linkages between a healthy financial system, transition to green economy and the pursuit of long-term sustainability (BOG guidance notes for sustainable banking principles; 2019 P.2).
Sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It is also about guaranteeing human rights and a life in dignity, free from want and poverty for all. Therefore, the sustainable banking concept is essentially about contributing to making this happen, through the financial products, model, marketing services and business operations of banks. Contextually, it was necessary that our approach to sustainable banking must respond to the desired banking industry contribution to the economic, social and environmental development nexus issues in Ghana (Sustainable Banking Principles & Sector Guidance Notes;2019).
Opportunities to consider
Significant green finance opportunities exist across several sectors including but not limited to:
- Energy: renewable energy resources particularly biomass, solar, wind energy, steel kilns, charcoal production, biomass power plants, biogas power plants, wind power, solar photovoltaic, improved cookstoves and LPG stoves.
- Agriculture: afforestation programs in deforested lands and in the cocoa sector.
- Transport: rail, water, and bus rapid transit (BRT) among others. Ghana’s transport policy which seeks to promote emissions reduction from road transport supports private sector participation.
- Waste: composting technology, biogas power plants, large municipal landfills, composting plants, and wastewater treatment facilities.
- Industrial building: The energy-for-all program and government policy to achieve a 10 percent energy mix provides greater opportunity to green the building sector. There is high demand for energy-efficient appliances in homes and industries due to the high cost of electricity in Ghana compared to other countries in the sub-region.
- Water resources: management of infrastructure, design of technological solutions, conservation, and water quality, solar water pumps, etc.
Benefits to financial services providers
- Creation of profitable business models by going green:
According to an IFC report, the market potential for green buildings in cities in developing countries is astronomical with an estimated $24.7 trillion by 2030. This comprises $15.7 trillion in residential markets, and $9 trillion in commercial markets (B G B; 2020, July 1). Emerging evidence indicates that green buildings are a higher-value, lower-risk asset than standard structures. Besides lowering energy consumption, and therefore operational costs, greener buildings typically achieve higher sale premiums and attract and retain more tenants, ensuring a more continuous revenue stream.
- Supporting the private sector in renewable energy funding:
The US$1.5 million grant from the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) initiative of the African Development bank, was approved to assist Ghana`s renewable investment drive which has seen several policies including the Renewable Energy Act 2011 (Act 832) come into force. This requires active stakeholder partnerships and policy-buy in. Commercial banks can therefore leverage this and also partner organizations to push private investment into the sector which has huge potential going forward.
- Portfolio growth and diversification:
Banks stand a greater chance of diversifying their assets and liabilities portfolio as emerging markets experience exponential growth with “going green”. Their clientele base can grow exponentially in the medium term with huge investment in “green assets” and can enjoy the multiplier effect in its liabilities with a positive impact in the bottom line. With a well-crafted product line in its “green financing”, banks can mitigate risks and largely prevent or reduce possible NPLs.
- Rebranding of Construction Projects:
Green financing can offer banks the opportunity to change the face of financing construction projects such as home improvement or mortgages. This is done by remodeling the terms of payment, pricing, and tenor for such facilities. Investors across emerging markets will be attracted to this and will offer a rich value chain at different stages of financing. A dedicated unit in place to cater to this will help drive the bank`s performance with profitability in the medium to long term.
- Benefiting from a unique brand of talents:
Green financing offers opportunities for banks to attract unique staff with specialization in the sector. It also affords the opportunity to train and retain existing staff in this unique ‘sub-sector’ and that can be very beneficial to the institutions as they can boast of rich talents within the human resource base.
Ghana has an extensive collection of financial institutions operating in the country and attracts a significant share of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows into Africa. In 2017, Ghana attracted US $3.2 billion in FDI. The banking industry’s gross loans and advances stood at US $7.3 billion in October 2018, representing a 7.5 percent year-on-year contraction.
The banking sector has been doing fairly well in terms of lending to other sectors of the economy, but there is still low lending to agriculture, forestry, and fishing which serve as a barrier to scaling-up green finance (GFS, 2019). Therefore, there is a need for financial institutions in Ghana to take advantage of the emerging green economy opportunities and expand access to low-interest green agricultural loans, environmental bonds in the fisheries, venture capital for renewable energy projects in the electricity subsectors, and certified emission reductions (UNEP,2013).
Yoshino, N. and Taghizadeh-Hesary, F 2018, The role of SMEs in Asia and their difficulties in accessing finance, https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/474576/adbi-wp911.pdf
Karembu, A. 2018, African Development Bank Supports Ghana’s Renewable Energy Sector with $1.5 Million Grant, https://www.afdb.org/en/news-and-events/african-development-bank-supports-ghanas-renewable-energy-sector-with-1-5-million-grant-18520
Lidenberg, 2014; G20 Green Finance Study Group, 2016; UNEP-FI2014, Green Finance Study in Ghana; Baseline Report, https://www.unpage.org/files/public/green_finance_study_ghana.pdf
Bank of Ghana Sustainable Principles and Sector Guidance Notes, https://www.bog.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Ghana-Sustainable-Banking-Principles-and-Guidelines-Book-1.pdf
UNEP, 2013, Green Economy Scoping Study: Ghana
Ebenezer specialises in Development Communication, International Development, Innovative Finance for SMEs and Sustainability.