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The Netherlands European leader in green bonds
Dutch companies have once again raised more capital by issuing green bonds, new figures from DNB reveal. In relative terms, the Netherlands is the leader in the euro area when it comes to issuing green debt securities. A large proportion of Dutch green bonds are issued by financial holding companies based here.
Published: 31 August 2023
The overall size of the Dutch green bond market is growing rapidly, having doubled since October 2020. At the end of July 2023, it stood at €122.9 billion, up 21% from a year earlier. By comparison, the overall Dutch bond market contracted to a market value of €2,054 billion, down 3.4% from €2,125 billion a year earlier.
What makes a bond “green”?
Capital raised through green bonds may only be used for initiatives and projects aimed at making the economy more sustainable. When issuing these financial instruments, a company explicitly commits itself to working towards climate goals. This is in contrast to regular bonds, where such restrictions on expenditure do not apply. Making the economy more sustainable could include, for example, investments aimed at boosting the energy transition and improving water management.
There are various standards for green bonds and bodies that certify them, for example the Climate Bond Initiative and the International Capital Market Association (ICMA). The debate about what makes a bond truly green is still ongoing, meaning current statistics should be viewed critically. This study used data on green bonds as published by the European Central Bank (ECB). The European Union is working on a green bond standard in line with the previously ratified EU taxonomy.
The Netherlands issues relatively the most green bonds
In Europe, Dutch companies and the government are the leading issuers of green bonds as a share of total outstanding debt. At the end of July 2023, the proportion for the Netherlands was 6.0%, followed by Finland (4.9%) and Germany (4.7%).
Other countries with large outstanding total debt, such as France, Spain and Italy, issue relatively fewer green bonds – even less than the euro area average of 3.5%. However, this is still more than the global average of 1.5%.
Financial holdings driver of high Dutch proportion
The Netherlands has a large number of financial holding companies. This particular sector – by far the largest in the euro area in relative terms – is the driver of the high Dutch proportion of green bonds and accounts for over a third of total such bonds issued in the Netherlands. Companies in this sector usually serve as intra-group lenders, with the money raised often flowing to foreign destinations. So although the capital is raised through a company registered in the Netherlands, the final investment – and thus the sustainability boost – generally takes place in another jurisdiction.
Examples of Dutch-based financial holding companies that issue large volumes of green bonds include Volkswagen (€7.5 billion) and utility companies Iberdrola (€4.8 billion) and EDP (€3.9 billion).
Non-financial corporations relatively “greenest” sector
Alongside financial holding companies, non-financial corporations, which produce goods and non-financial services, are also major issuers of green bonds. This sector has been the largest issuer of green bonds in relative terms for some time. At the end of July 2023, the share of green bonds issued by this sector – as a percentage of total outstanding debt for these enterprises – was 17.1% (€31 billion). This is followed by financial holding companies (5.8%, or €44 billion) and banks (5.0%, or €27 billion). The Dutch central government finances 3.2% of its debt with green capital, currently consisting of a single outstanding bond with a market value of just over €11 billion as of the end of July 2023.
Among non-financial corporations, TenneT, wholly owned by the State of the Netherlands, stands out as a green bond issuer with outstanding debt of €16.9 billion. Among banks, ABN AMRO Bank (€9.7 billion) and Nederlandse Waterschapsbank (€5.3 billion) have the most outstanding green debt in absolute terms.
- Table 4.1: Outstanding amount and transactions of debt securities
- Table 4.5: Green bond holdings and issuances
- Dashboard: Sustainability of the Dutch financial sector
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