Special commissioned by Alexandra Tracy, President of Hoi Ping Ventures / 特約撰稿Hoi Ping Ventures主席 Alexandra Tracy

Green finance in Hong Kong has really started to take on some momentum over the past few months, with a raft of announcements from policy makers which will have an impact across a range of financial sectors.

In a bold signalling move, Hong Kong has become the first Asian government to sign up to the Green Bond Pledge, while issuing its first tranche of sovereign green bonds in May. In a similar vein, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority will reportedly soon become a signatory to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investing, and is looking at joining the central banks’ Network for Greening the Financial System.

More tangibly, on the ground, HKMA has also announced a new sustainable bank initiative for Hong Kong banks, aiming to push them towards greater “greenness” and will create a Centre for Green Finance to provide technical assistance. On the investment side, HKMA’s Exchange Fund is looking to incorporate more ESG principles into its activities, while the Securities and Futures Commission and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange are looking to heighten ESG disclosure by listed companies and fund providers.

So, green finance in Hong Kong is moving forward, and this is a good thing. Financial markets must evolve to keep ahead – Hong Kong can’t play the “offshore RMB” card for ever – and competence in this area is likely to be essential to maintaining global market competitiveness.

What is green finance for?

But let’s look at the bigger picture for a moment: not so much, “what is green finance?” (and how do we get really good at it ?), but also, “what is green finance for ?”

There is a huge demand for financing for green and sustainable development, infrastructure and business. Trillions of dollars need to be invested in our region every year to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Construction of cclimate smart infrastructure alone in developing Asia is likely to cost nearly US$2 trillion annually.

Much of that investment, over time, will increasingly come from so called “mainstream” investors, as we see business practices shifting towards more green and sustainable norms. Where green finance is needed – in the short to medium term – is to fill market gaps and to fund projects and businesses that traditional fund managers and banks currently won’t touch.

When this is done correctly, it can be incredibly powerful and transform local markets.

For example, the Connecticut Green Bank in the US has implemented one of the most successful commercial building energy efficiency programmes in the world, creating a structure for long term financing of energy upgrades, which was not then available from banks in the state. The positive performance of loans under the programme has since attracted several private funders into this sector.

Similarly, the Indian Solar Loan Programme transformed the market for solar home systems in Southern India from a small, cash only business into a thriving sector which was able to attract significant bank capital. With initial support from the UN, local banks could become familiar with the potential risks of funding solar and appreciate the opportunities in this growing business line. They are now lending on purely commercial terms.

Transforming business as usual

Green finance plays a crucial role in financing businesses that struggle to raise funding from traditional sources. Its value lies in transforming “business as usual” – enabling green and sustainable activity that might not otherwise be able to succeed.

At the same time, green finance is itself a business, which can generate substantial rewards both for its proponents and for the wider economy. Growing the pool of capital available in Hong Kong to green businesses will create new opportunities for the financial services sector, as well as supporting the low carbon technology, construction and supply chain sectors.

在過去數月,綠色金融的勢頭在香港逐漸成形,政府宣布的多項措施將為整個金融業界帶來重大的影響。

今年5月,香港成為首個亞洲城市簽署綠色債券誓約,並發行第一批主權綠色債券。與此同時,據報導,香港金融管理局日內將成為聯合國負責任投資原則的簽署者,並正考慮加入中央銀行的綠色金融體系網絡。這些都是大膽而顯著的行動!

在切實執行方面,金管局還宣布了一項針對本地銀行業可持續發展的新計劃,旨在推動各銀行邁向更「綠」,另外亦將成立綠色金融中心以提供技術支援。在投資方面,金管局外匯基金希望將更多ESG (環境、社會與管治) 原則納入其運作當中,而證券及期貨事務監察委員會及香港交易所則建議加強上市公司及基金服務供應商的ESG披露規定。

由此可見,香港在綠色金融上正迅速發展,這絕對是一件好事。金融市場必須與時並進才能保持國際領導地位。香港不能永遠只依靠「離岸人民幣」這張王牌 — 發展綠色金融的能耐可能對香港能否維持全球市場競爭力至關重要。

綠色金融有何用處?

現在讓我們先討論一些基本問題,除了問「綠色金融究竟是什麼?」(以及我們如何能在此方面做得好?)之外,我們還需要了解「綠色金融到底有何用處?」。

現今社會對綠色金融和可持續發展、基建及商業的資金需求巨大。我們的地區每年均需要投入數以萬億計的資金才能實現可持續發展的目標,例如僅是在亞洲發展中國家興建氣候智能設施便每年耗資近2萬億美元。

隨著時間的推移,隨著商界採納綠色和可持續的標準規範,以上所述的投資項目資金將會越來越多來自所謂的「主流」投資者。而推動綠色金融的作用 — 在中短期內 — 便是填補市場的空白,為傳統基金經理和銀行目前不會參與融資的項目和業務提供資金。

若這個計劃順利進行,將會為香港金融市場帶來改造性的變化。

例如,美國康涅狄格州綠色銀行推行了世界上其中一個最成功的商業建築節能計劃,為這種升級節能設備項目的長期融資建立了一個獨特的系統,當時全美國其他銀行都無法做到。這項計劃在回報上表現優秀,自此吸引了多個私人投資者加入融資的行列。

無獨有偶,印度太陽能貸款計劃將印度南部的太陽能家庭系統市場從小型的、以現金為基礎的業務,轉化為一個能夠吸引大量銀行資金的系統。初時,計劃得到聯合國的支持,他們協助當地銀行去逐漸了解投資太陽能的潛在風險,並認識這個不斷發展的市場機遇。現時,當地銀行已經對這個行業有充份的認識, 並已經能夠從純商業角度批核貸款。

改變「金融常態」

綠色金融在難以從傳統投資者當中籌集資金的企業項目上,發揮著至關重要的作用。它的價值在於改變「金融常態」— 為比較難在傳統融資渠道集資的綠色及可持續發展計劃提供所需的資金。

與此同時,綠色金融作為一項業務,也能為其支持者及為整體經濟帶來豐厚的回報。在香港,增加綠色企業融資將能為金融業製造新的機遇,並進一步支援低碳技術、建築與供應鏈等行業。

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *