香港地球之友綠色金融顧問 Alexandra Tracy / Alexandra Tracy, Green Finance Advisor of Friends of the Earth (HK)

2020年可能是「自然資本」進入主流投資者議程的一年。

自然資本是將自然資源(例如水、土地、森林和潔淨空氣)視為提供給人類和經濟的利益流動或「生態系統服務」資產的一種看法。這些服務包括食物以及環境和氣候的自然調節。

據估計,自然界每年成功為全球經濟運作提供總值超過70兆美元的商品和服務。

但是,對自然日益增加的壓力正以前所未有的速度破壞我們賴以生存的資源。在亞洲,經濟快速增長為環境帶來沉重的負擔,導致土地、淡水和海洋生態系統惡化,並對生物多樣性造成嚴重影響。

令人鼓舞的是,人類現在已開始意識到加強保護及管理自然資源是過渡至可持續及低碳未來的關鍵因素。在去年9月於紐約舉行的聯合國氣候週上,針對大自然的解決方案(例如,防止森林開伐、增加植樹造林、改善土壤健康以及保護濕地及沿岸地區)成為重點討論項目。保護和善用自然生態系統可以實現《巴黎協定》內的2030年目標中所需的減排量近40%。

應對環境挑戰

近年來,投資者越來越尋求應對環境惡化和迫在眉睫的氣候變化挑戰的方法。他們需要了解其投資的企業如何採取行動來處理這些問題,並且在某些情況下,將資本直接投入到既能產生財務回報、又可平衡環境未來的投資中。

依賴木材、棕櫚油、大豆或牛等製品的公司正受到來自投資者越來越大的壓力,他們承諾減少或淘汰其供應鏈中的森林砍伐程序,並優先考慮具可持續性的採購。一些公司現已在生態系統保護上進行直接投資。

例如,宜家家居投資數百萬美元取得受可持續管轄的林地,以確保獲得森林管理委員會認證的木材產品和紙張供應。聯合利華則對加工設施和本地供應商進行多項戰略投資,以支撐其可持續棕櫚油的長期採購。

直接投資

全球可持續林業、農業、漁業、水和自然棲息地等自然資本部門的投資正在加速增長。在某些情況下,公共資本被用來動員私人投資者,例如通過世界銀行的森林投資計劃和全球環境基金的多項倡議,來保護海洋地區、鼓勵可持續的小規模漁業和減少海洋污染。聯合國綠色氣候基金還資助了多項針對自然的解決方案,包括恢復老撾四個城市的濕地和河流生態系統。

同時,機構投資者對專注於自然資本機遇的基金需求也越來越大。一些具實力的資產管理公司,例如Althelia Ecosphere和Ecosystem Investment Partners,已在養老基金和保險公司等機構完成多項融資。而最近,以印尼和菲律賓為主要目標的可持續小規模漁業基金Meloy吸引了該地區的基金會和家族企業進行投資。

The year 2020 may be the one in which “natural capital” moves onto the agenda of the mainstream investor community.

Natural capital is a way of thinking about natural resources – such as water, land, forests and clean air – as assets that provide a flow of benefits, or “ecosystem services” to people and the economy.  These services include food and the natural regulation of the environment and climate.

In total, it is estimated that nature provides more than US$70 trillion a year of goods and services essential to a successfully functioning global economy.

However, increasing pressures on nature are degrading the resources on which we depend at an unprecedented rate. Here in Asia, rapid economic growth has taken a high toll from the environment, leading to a deterioration of land, freshwater and marine ecosystems, as well as severe impacts on biodiversity.

Happily, better preservation and management of natural resources is starting to be recognised as a crucial element of the transition to a sustainable and low carbon future.  At UN Climate Week in New York in September, nature-based solutions – such as preventing deforestation, increasing reforestation, improving soil health and safeguarding wetlands and coastal areas – featured prominently. Protecting and leveraging natural ecosystems could provide nearly 40% of the emissions reductions needed to meet the Paris climate agreement’s goal for 2030.

Responding to environmental challenges

In recent years, investors have increasingly been seeking to respond to the challenges of environmental degradation and looming climate change.  This means understanding how the companies in which they invest are themselves taking action to manage these issues, and, in some cases, putting capital directly into investments that both generate a financial return and a measurable environmental result.

Companies that depend on commodities such as timber, palm oil, soy or cattle are under growing pressure from investors to commit to reducing or eliminating deforestation from their supply chains and to prioritise sustainable sourcing.  Some companies are already investing directly in ecosystem protection.

For example, IKEA Group has put millions of dollars into acquiring sustainably managed forest lands to ensure a supply of Forest Stewardship Council certified timber products and paper. Unilever has also made a number of strategic investments in processing facilities and local suppliers in order to bolster its long term sourcing of sustainable palm oil.

Investing directly

Investment in natural capital sectors such as sustainable forestry, agriculture, fisheries, water and natural habitat is accelerating globally.  In some cases, public capital is being leveraged to mobilise private investors, such as through the World Bank’s Forest Investment Programme and a number of initiatives by the Global Environment Facility to protect marine areas, encourage sustainable small scale fisheries and reduce ocean pollution.  The UN Green Climate Fund is also funding several nature-based solutions, including the restoration of wetland and stream ecosystems in four cities in Laos.

Meanwhile, there is growing appetite from institutional investors for funds focusing on natural capital opportunities.  The more established managers, such as Althelia Ecosphere and Ecosystem Investment Partners, have completed a number of capital raises from institutions including pension funds and insurance companies.  More recently the Meloy Fund for Sustainable Small Scale Fisheries, focused on Indonesia and the Philippines, attracted investment from foundations and family offices in the region.