Mobilising sustainable finance

Financial supervision and regulatory requirements do not necessarily stand in the way of sustainable finance. A working group has found that financial institutions and supervisory authorities must do better when assessing sustainability risks.

Sustainable Finance Platform: The financial sector plays a key role in mobilising sustainable investments.

If the Netherlands wants to meet the targets set in the Paris Climate Agreement by 2040, it needs to invest an additional EUR 10 billion each year. The financial sector plays a key role in mobilising sustainable finance, but so far concrete results are lacking. A Sustainable Finance Platform working group examined whether government policy, supervision and financial regulations are regarded as an impediment to investments.

Supervision does not slow down sustainable finance

The working group states in its final report that regulations and supervision do not inhibit sustainable finance. The main cause of the lack of sustainable investment is the unfavourable risk-return profile – their risks are too high or their returns too low. Attractive sustainable investment opportunities are also very scarce.

Higher capital requirements

Part of the sustainable finance market is characterised by high risks and low liquidity, which is why higher liquidity and capital requirements apply. Some institutions say that this is hampering them, but according to the working group this does not qualify as a reason to abandon the principle of 'more risk, more capital'. If the prudential supervision framework were used to promote sustainable investments, financial institutions would be allowed to maintain buffers that are too low relative to their risk exposure.

Sustainability risks

However, a key issue is whether risks associated with investments are correctly assessed, however. Current risk estimation models do not yet take into account the consequences of climate change. During a time of energy transition, the business models of carbon-intensive companies will come under pressure. The working group therefore recommends that financial institutions and supervisory authorities improve their assessment of sustainability risks and incorporate them into their analyses and policies. This will require more knowledge about this subject. In addition to the importance of improving the information supply and risk management, there seems to be no other reason for adjusting supervisory frameworks or financial regulations.

Government policy

Consistent government policies can help raise the attractiveness of sustainable investment. For example, it is now a government requirement that every office building has at least energy label C from 2023 onwards. For this reason, Dutch banks only provide refinancing for office buildings with lower energy labels if there are plans for rapid improvement. This is where banks' risk management measures speed up the sustainable conversion of office buildings.

The working group

The working group was dissolved following the publication of its final report. It consisted of representatives from the following financial institutions and companies: DNB, PGGM, NIBC, ING, TKP Investments, Delta Lloyd, AFM, MN and Aegon Asset Management. Willem Evers (DNB) chaired the working group, and it was commissioned by Frank Elderson, Executive Director of DNB.