How the World Bank Can Help Save the Planet

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Credit: Christine Roy/Unsplash

The World Bank is expected to have a significant impact on how the financing of the energy transition is done, potentially dwarfing the pledged efforts of Wall Street behemoths like JPMorgan Chase & Co. or BlackRock Inc. to assist in reducing emissions, as reported by Bloomberg.

Catastrophic global warming

In fact, the money lying on the balance sheets of financial institutions may never be reallocated to climate-positive projects at the scale necessary to halt catastrophic global warming without the World Bank and other so-called multilateral development banks (MDBs).

There is a suggestion that MDBs can serve as the cornerstone of a new Marshall Plan for the planet, just like Bretton Woods established the organisation to aid in rebuilding a war-ravaged Europe.

Only a small portion of the more than $140 trillion in assets managed by asset managers, banks, and insurers have been utilised to address the climate catastrophe. These institutions have pledged to eliminate their financed emissions by 2050. In order to get the capital to developing countries, where it is most needed, it is necessary to go through a number of investment roadblocks, including credit rating restrictions, foreign exchange risks, and the potential for an emerging market debt crisis.

In other words, neither public funding nor incentives from private sources of capital are adequate to finance the shift.

Loan portfolio

The MDBs enter the picture here: The World Bank and International Monetary Fund would be most helpful in the switch to clean energy if they functioned like insurers that lower the risk for private investors, according to Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock.

Similar to this, the Sustainable Markets Initiative has recommended that MDBs establish “a sizable pool of funds” that can offer “first loss” or “second loss” guarantees, which would entail them being the first or second in line to take losses on a loan portfolio, thereby lowering the risk and improving the credit rating for other buyers in order to “catalyse a significant multiple of private-sector investment and financing.”

Assisting Wall Street

Of course, there are drawbacks and risks to such a strategy.

Should assisting Wall Street truly be the main objective for these publicly sponsored institutions? Wall Street may tell the MDBs that we need you to de-risk us. Sonia Dunlop, who is in charge of the E3G think tank’s work on public banks, stated.

As valid as these criticisms may be, according to Nick Autiello, director of the impact at the Investor Leadership Network and vice president of environmental, social, and governance strategy at State Street Corp., implementing the energy transition in time to limit global warming requires finding a way to involve private finance.

“MBD shareholders may wonder why they should be responsible for using taxpayer funds to derisk private projects,” stated Autiello. However, that isn’t the best perspective.

We must mobilise all of our resources to address the climate catastrophe because history has “taught us that public and charitable investment, properly focused, can unlock massive quantities of private investment,” according to Autiello.

This potential is what is fueling the movement toward change. World leaders demanded that MBDs be redesigned to promote climate action by “mobilising” funds from private-finance investors during the United Nations COP27 climate negotiations in November.

G20 presidency

A symposium on the environmental role of MDBs is being planned for June in Paris by French President Emmanuel Macron and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, a major advocate of development-finance reform. India has stated that MDB reform is one of its goals for the G20 presidency, and world leaders are anticipated to tackle the issue at the summit in September.

It is hoped that increasing pressure will begin to show results. It may be, too.

The World Bank has proposed a new “roadmap” that would increase its lending capacity to combat climate change in response to requests from the US and other shareholder countries.

According to Dunlop of E3G, “MDBs have a rare opportunity to shape the future of climate finance.” Public banks have a comparatively lower portion of the capital available for climate projects compared to private banks. However, they possess unparalleled influence over financial patterns.

 


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Source: Bloomberg

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