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UK to launch first green savings bond to boost climate credentials

The UK media is full of leaks and previews ahead of this week’s much-anticipated budget. While most of the focus is on post-Covid stimulus and support measures, the Financial Times reports that the “UK will launch its first sovereign green savings bonds, offering retail investors the chance to buy into projects dedicated to greening the economy, such as renewable energy schemes”. It adds: “A savings bond of an as-yet-undetermined size and structure will be offered this year through National Savings & Investments, the government-backed savings scheme, the Treasury will announce. There was a lack of detail about the move, which is part of the government’s effort to burnish its green credentials ahead of hosting the international climate summit in November, known as COP26… However, the UK has been slow in coming to the sovereign green debt market.

France sold its first sovereign green bond in 2017, while Germany, Poland and Ireland have all issued their own, and Italy set out its framework for doing so last week.” The newspaper has published a feature headlined, “the green initiatives to expect in [chancellor] Rishi Sunak’s announcement – and how they will affect you”. The outlet speaks to Dr. Jonathan Marshall, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, who says to watch out for news of the “mooted funding cut” to the troubled green homes grant, as well as a cut to VAT on green products, which campaigners have been calling for.

The Daily Telegraph reports in an “exclusive” that Rishi Sunak will pledge £22bn for a new bank in the budget to boost the green economy. The newspaper adds: “Mr. Sunak will set aside an initial £12bn of capital and £10bn of government guarantees for the UK Infrastructure Bank in next week’s budget. The cash comes ahead of the UK hosting the climate change COP conference in Glasgow in November. The new bank will launch in the Spring and operate UK-wide and it is hoped will unlock billions more in private finance to support £40bn of infrastructure investment for the economy. Treasury officials said it should help to achieve the UK’s commitments on net-zero and ‘leveling up’ communities which extra government support.”

Meanwhile, in other UK news, the Financial Times reports that the government has announced that the UK’s post-Brexit carbon trading scheme will launch in May, “with the first auctions that replace its EU counterpart expected to attract strong interest from buyers”. The newspaper adds: “The UK emissions trading programme is a cornerstone of the government’s pledge to become a net-zero economy by 2050. It sets a limit on the volume of greenhouse gases that heavy polluters can emit and requires them to buy carbon credits, which can be traded, to cover their output. Companies such as power providers have been awaiting details on the UK scheme since the Brexit transition period concluded at the end of 2020. The plans released on Friday show the first trades will take place on May 19, pending regulatory approval.”

The Daily Telegraph has a story saying that the Bank of England is finding that “going green is no easy task”. It explains: “The Bank of England’s main goal is to keep inflation at 2% per year, using interest rates and quantitative easing (QE)…It is difficult to consider climate change within that framework. However, the Bank has bought a small slice of corporate bonds – £20bn – as part of its QE programme, alongside its much larger £875bn of government bonds. Some of those companies have a high carbon footprint…So far, the bank has simply tried to buy bonds on the basis that they are low risk. Going green is difficult – it means favouring some companies over others, which is not usual central banking territory, and trying to work out what ‘green’ even means.”

Separately, BBC News reports that “Boris Johnson has been warned by some of his foreign ambassadors that a planned coal mine in Cumbria is damaging his reputation”. The outlet continues: “The PM wants to lead the world on climate change, but the ambassadors say his tacit support for the mine is bringing accusations of hypocrisy. The issue has flared as the UK co-hosts a coalition of nations pledged to phase out coal in power generation. The Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) was initiated by the UK. Supporters of the Cumbria mine argue it should be encouraged because it will produce special coking coal for steel making, not thermal coal for power. But that’s too fine a distinction for some developing nations.” The Guardian reports that “three out of 10 of the UK’s biggest public companies emit CO2 at a rate that would contribute significantly to the climate crisis, according to analysis that shows the scale of the challenge for corporate Britain to cut emissions to zero”.

BusinessGreen says that campaigners, led by the prime minister’s own father, are urging Boris Johnson to enshrine a “2030 nature protection goal” into law: “Conservative Environment Network international ambassador Stanley Johnson is one of more than 50 campaigners, environmental NGOs, and politicians to have signed an open letter to Prime Minster Boris Johnson urging him to back up his public commitments to protect 30% of land and ocean by the end of the decade with a legally-binding national target.” Finally, Bloomberg reports that Centrica – the owner of British Gas – is in talks with the UK government about plans to convert its disused Rough natural gas storage site off the coast of northeast England to store hydrogen.

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