France emerges as green finance leader

Point etape sur le projet de loi Transition energetique pour la croissance verte et les actions concretes

23 Nov France emerges as green finance leader

A week before the crucial COP 21 climate conference in Paris, a new report by the UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System (UNEP Inquiry) and I4CE – Institute for Climate Economics – shows how France is successfully integrating sustainability factors into its financial architecture.

The report, entitled France’s Financial (Eco)system: improving the integration of sustainability factors, pinpoints the key steps taken by both public and private actors in France over the last two decades, with a focus on pioneering climate-related measures introduced this year.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner 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 toward sustainability we will need to build on in Paris to tackle climate change.”

The study is the first in-depth analysis of the progressive mainstreaming of environmental issues in France’s financial sector. It highlights the country’s leadership in promoting the integration of sustainability and climate factors into financial decision-making. This has most recently taken the form of new climate related reporting and risk assessment measures – notably Article 173 – which were adopted as part of the 2015 Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth.

Nick Robins, Co-director of the UNEP Inquiry, said, “This new report on France adds to the UNEP Inquiry’s in-depth analysis of actions that countries across the world are taking to align their financial systems with sustainable development. It shows how market and policy innovation can combine to improve the performance and resilience of the financial system.”

The official policy and regulatory framework is only one of the elements that contribute to greening France’s financial system. The report identifies a broad “ecosystem” of commercial, public sector and non profit actors who have played a key role in fostering the articulation of sustainability issues across the financial sector.

This extensive engagement and depth of expertise have been essential to building the momentum that led to this year’s climate-specific measures, notably the world-leading provisions for investors to disclose their contribution to energy transition and plans for climate factors to be included into bank stress tests.

Benoît Leguet, Managing Director at I4CE said, “The French approach focuses on improving the practice of all actors while leaving them enough space to act in the most appropriate way for their own interests and business models.”

Romain Morel, economist at I4CE, said, “France has developed a distinctive model where public and private initiatives reinforce each other to both raise awareness and promote concrete action.”

France’s track record is based on a growing attention to environmental, social and governance issues over the past fifteen years, with their formal integration into the regulatory framework beginning back in 2001.

These measures have contributed to growing volumes of domestic climate finance in France, up from EUR 30 billion in 2011 to EUR 36 billion in 2013.

Hosting COP21 has provided an added stimulus for domestic efforts in France to green its financial system. Looking forward, the report highlights a set of priorities to maintain the momentum of policy and market innovation.

The French case study follows the recently published UNEP Inquiry global report, The Financial System We Need, which charts how the full potential of the financial system can be harnessed to deliver the transition to sustainable development.