Can booming green bonds finance sustainable cities?

In this three-part blog series “Making Vanilla Green or Making Green Vanilla,” EDF+Business Sustainable Finance Manager Jake Hiller, and Clean Energy and Sustainable Finance Intern Gabriel Malek unpack how an environmental advocacy group like EDF could best use its resources and expertise to drive impact in the fixed income market. This research is informed by interviews conducted with Eric Glass, Senior Portfolio Manager at AllianceBernstein and founding member of the Municipal Impact Investment Policy Group; Rob Fernandez, Director of ESG Research at Breckinridge Capital; and Navjeet Bal, General Counsel of Social Finance Inc. and former Commissioner of Revenue of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Over the past few years, experts in socially responsible investing have become increasingly intrigued by green bonds, financial vehicles designed to kickstart environmental projects. In 2016, both EDF and the Stanford Social Innovation Review examined the strengths and challenges of the growing green bond market and outlined how this novel financial tool could help channel capital to sustainable development initiatives. Since the publication of these articles, the green bond market has expanded dramatically. In the US alone, the value of green bonds between 2016 and 2017 doubled to $48 billion. What began in 2008 with an experimental, World Bank-issued “green” labelled bond has since developed into a $155 billion market that is projected to expand this year.

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New Jersey’s $40 billion investment opportunity that no one is talking about

What is a leading opportunity for states to create energy security, job growth and economic development with their public dollars?

The answer? A public financing institution that can engage effectively with private sector players to meet them on their own terms – addressing real barriers and providing the right types of capital needed to make clean energy projects investable.

Take Connecticut for example. In 2011, the state established the nation’s first state green bank, the Connecticut Green Bank (CGB). Over the last six years, CGB has used $174.6 million of ratepayer funds to attract $914.8 million of private investment in clean energy for a total investment of $1.1 billion. These investments have supported the deployment of 234.4 MW of renewable energy, created thousands of jobs, and reduced an estimated 3.7 million tons of CO2 emissions over the life of the projects.

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Green Bonds: A Year in Review

This post is part of an EDF+Business ongoing series on sustainable finance, highlighting market mechanisms and strategies that drive environmental performance by engaging private capital. EDF is actively engaging leaders with the capital and expertise needed to catalyze sector-wide changes—from accelerating investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, to protecting tropical forests, restoring depleted fisheries and saving habitats of endangered species.


Green bonds were a glimmer in the eye for investors when we first reported on them two years ago, but since then these sustainability-oriented debt financing instruments have exploded onto the investment scene. In fact green bonds were held up as a key instrument to keeping warming below the global high-end target of 2°C at COP21.

career-544952_640-300x211In the past year, the market to buy these bonds — which, by design, are linked to an environmental benefit — has significantly grown and matured. Over the course of 2015, the green bond market expanded from $37 billion to $42.4 billion, with much of this growth due to diversification — both in who is issuing them and for what wider types of projects.

While expansion of this market is encouraging, its growth is much slower than most experts had originally anticipated. Early predictions for 2015 had the green bond market booming to $80 billion, or even $100 billion. Instead, numbers seem to have stagnated. What does the future hold for this market, especially in the wake of COP21? Read more