By Peter Dunscombe
Chairman of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC)
The climate is changing and the investments needed for mitigation and adapation are huge.
Private sector capital will be critical to meeting this challenge, with estimates suggesting
that around 85% of the total investment must come from private sources, including institutional
investors such as pension funds and sovereign wealth funds. 50-60% of these investments must be
made in emerging economies.
Many private investors are already acting to address climate risks and opportunities. They
integrate climate issues into their investment practices, address climate strategies in
dialogues with companies and they consider investment opportunities in energy efficiency and
However, no matter how committed investors may seem, private sector investment will not reach
the scale required to address climate change effectively unless governments provide clear and
ambitious policy signals. The single most significant driver of private sector investment in
climate change solutions is strong, stable, transparent and credible policy.
Pension funds are bound by fiduciary duty to provide the best possible risk adjusted returns across
their portfolios. It falls within this responsibility to take stock of the risks and opportunities
associated with climate change and to adapt investment strategies and practices accordingly.
Investors will only allocate capital to climate change investment on the scale required if policy
provides clear, credible and sustained incentives. For pension funds to allocate a greater proportion
of their investments to climate solutions, these investments must provide similar risk adjusted
returns to other types of investments, and climate policy is critical to this.
Institutional investors urge greater dialogue between policymakers and the finance
This is why the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and similar investor groups
around the world called on policymakers in the run-up to COP15 to agree a strong and binding global
agreement which would set the framework for strong action on climate change at national and regional
levels. A basic lesson to be learned from past experience in renewable energy in countries such as
Denmark, Spain and Germany is that almost without exception private sector investment in climate
solutions has only been attracted by consistent and sustained policies.
As outlined in the 2010 Investor Statement on Catalysing Investment in a Low-Carbon Economy,
investors are looking for policies that put an effective price on carbon and accelerate the
development of carbon markets and energy and transportation policies that support the deployment of
energy efficiency, renewable energy, green buildings, clean vehicles and fuels and low-carbon
The importance of credible regulatory frameworks and low-carbon domestic policies for attracting
private sector investment in size applies to both developed and developing countries. In some
emerging economies, investors may face additional risks, for example more limited transparency, third
party dependency, transaction costs and higher financial as well as political uncertainties and
risks. This means that private sector investment in climate solutions in these countries will only be
accelerated if risk levels are brought down through a combination of capacity and policy development
and the formation of financing models to attract private capital.
Leveraging private finance by altering the risk reward balance
Lessons from other regions and other major development efforts, e.g. the Marshall Plan, the
preparation for EU accession and sub-national infrastructure development programmes, suggest that the
risks associated with investments in climate solutions in developing countries can be brought down
substantially by a combination of policy and capacity building measures, and by developing coherent
national or regional strategies which place each project in the context of a development plan.
Public sector finance mechanisms should be designed with a view to leveraging private finance and
assisting private investments by altering the risk reward balance. This could be achieved through
strong and credible national policies involving private-public partnerships as well as through the
provision of public finance mechanisms. The latter should be based as far as possible on existing
mechanisms such as MIGA/ECA export credit guarantees or lending arrangements by development banks,
and any potential distortion of traditional market structures should be curtailed.
Investors are calling for a focused dialogue on the nature and the design of such measures between
multilateral development banks (MDBs), bilateral finance institutions and private investors such as
pension funds. It is important to adopt a flexible approach that recognizes that countries are at
different levels of development; an approach that can be adapted to very different political and
financial contexts and to the requirements of different kinds of investors.
In addition, these measures must be adaptable, as domestic policy frameworks are strengthened and
carbon markets develop. The deal flow for low carbon projects in developing countries will be
improved with the implementation of strong and credible national policies, and public financing
mechanisms should be designed bearing in mind that the need for them will diminish over time.
If policies are right, money is available
A key priority for the recently established high-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing
should be to consider how some of the funds pledged under the Copenhagen Accord could be used to
leverage private sector investment in developing countries. Investors are willing to contribute to
this discussion, and hope to have greater clarity on the scope of the funds agreed in Copenhagen, as
current uncertainties are hampering investment decision-making. There is a risk that the notion that
“something new“ is on its way may stall markets and/or drive them unintentionally in a
The Advisory Group may want to consider how some of the $30bn fast start money could be used to
produce a series of “early wins”. Such an approach would assist relevant international
financial institutions and private investors in forming alliances focusing on concrete projects. An
aim should be to develop more generally applicable financing models and to provide examples of
concrete risk mitigation measures in order to leverage private sector money to be invested in this
These experiences can then be adapted to other projects in different countries. In addition, the fast
start fund as well as the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund should support countries in developing their
capacity, policies and strategies, which in turn would support well-coordinated and well-designed
flows of bankable projects that attract private sector investment.
Therefore it is critical that the Advisory Group establishes a dialogue with the financial community
on how to accelerate private sector investment in developing countries. If policies are right, money
is available – even in the short term.