Green bonds to 'supercharge' green economy

| 16th July 2020

Solar panels in a field near Five Oaks, west Sussex.

PA
Councils lead charge to ‘build back greener’ by launching UK’s first local government green bond.

For hard-pressed councils struggling with the dual challenges of economic recovery from Covid-19 and responding to the climate crisis, CMIs are being hailed as a breakthrough in delivering green projects, jobs and economic stimulus.

West Berkshire Council is today launching the UK’s first ever local government green bond using the innovative Community Municipal Investment (CMI) developed by ethical investment platform Abundance. The programme will help the district – and the nation – build back greener after the pandemic.

CMIs allow councils to offer a regulated investment directly to their residents for the first time. The West Berkshire investment launching today is the first of six pilot schemes, backed by extensive research, which have the potential to be rolled out across every local authority in the UK.

For hard-pressed councils struggling with the dual challenges of economic recovery from Covid-19 and responding to the climate crisis, CMIs are being hailed as a breakthrough in delivering green projects, jobs and economic stimulus.

Supercharge

Bruce Davis, co-founder and managing director of Abundance Investment, said: “150 years since the first local authority investments were sold directly to the public by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Goschen, Community Municipal Investments open a new chapter for financing local council investment in vital local infrastructure.

"Working with several councils, Abundance has drawn on the best of this legacy to create an innovative model for the twenty first century which provides a powerful tool for tackling the major challenge of our time: climate change."

West Berkshire is kicking off the programme, launching its green bond to raise a million pounds from its citizens to fund solar panel installations on five council-owned buildings, including a building at Greenham Common and two local schools.

The CMIs are arranged by Abundance, which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and has previously raised over £100 million for green and social infrastructure projects.

Bruce Davis added: “We believe that using CMIs to issue green bonds to can really supercharge the green economy, and help us take the real action we need today to build the resilient, sustainable communities we need for tomorrow. There is a lot of talk about the need to build back greener, but CMIs are the direct, tangible investments that can deliver the projects that will actually make that happen."

Development 

Davis continued: “We’re really pleased to be launching the first of these with West Berkshire to help them achieve net zero 20 years ahead of the UK’s target. They are demonstrating that local authorities can be powerful engines of green growth for the future.”

West Berkshire declared a Climate Emergency a year ago, following this up with an Environment Strategy which has an ambitious target of making the district net zero by 2030. Its green bond to fund new solar power in the district is one of the first deliverables of its strategy.

Ross Mackinnon, West Berkshire’s executive member for finance and economic development, said: “We are very excited to be the first council to offer CMIs to our residents and community groups. They are a ground-breaking way to put residents’ money to work to help us build back greener after the pandemic.

“Communities investing directly with us will provide us with a cheaper alternative to conventional sources of funds reducing the overall cost of borrowing to all taxpayers across the district as well as making a positive contribution toward our target to be carbon neutral by 2030.”

Steve Ardagh-Walter, West Berkshire’s executive member for the environment, said: “A greener future is something that everybody wants, and CMIs offer an opportunity for local people to help us to drive towards that – I hope that as many people as possible will participate.”

Solar

West Berkshire is the first of three local authorities who will be launching the first wave of local government green bonds through Abundance, with Warrington and Leeds councils set to follow suit later this year. All will be using their CMIs to finance rooftop and ground mount solar installations. Abundance is also working on a pipeline with several other local authorities.

Research shows a strong appetite for these investments. A recent report from Abundance, funded by the Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) showed that 73 percent of UK savers and investors would consider investing in a CMI.

Abundance’s analysis also shows that CMIs could have a potential impact of as much as three billion pounds if taken up by all 343 local authorities in England, matching the Chancellor’s recently announced green stimulus package of £3 billion. This represents just a small fraction of the £157 billion UK citizens currently lend to the UK government via National Savings and Investments (NS&I). 

This Article 

This article is based on a press release from Abundance, which advertises with The Ecologist.

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