The first week of COP26 ended with a loud and clear response from world leaders to the call for greater ambition and urgent climate action. Regardless of whether this enthusiasm is to be received with hope or with skepticism, it is important not to lose focus on the pressing theme of private capital mobilization (PCM) for climate action, without which it will be impossible to meet the Paris Agreement.
As US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, noted in her remarks “… as big as the public sector effort is across all our countries, the $100-trillion plus price tag to address climate change globally is far bigger… and the private sector needs to play a bigger role”. In fact, developed economies have not been able to meet the $100 billion a year commitment to finance climate needs in emerging economies.
A major announcement at COP26 was the pledge of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) – a global coalition of over 450 finance firms across 45 countries, jointly managing $130 trillion - to align their financing activities to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Leaving aside fair questions as to whether it is enough or realistic, this pledge is indicative of the scale and ambition needed..
A similar pledge came earlier this year from the Climate Finance Partnership (CFP), a partnership between BlackRock and the governments of France, Germany, and Japan, as well as a number of leading U.S. impact investing organizations, to align resources towards net-zero emissions.
Just as GFANZ and CFP, private sector players are making bolder commitments representing important opportunities. But how much of this financing will reach emerging economies? What can the World Bank Group (WBG) and partner organizations do to facilitate the flow of private capital to developing countries? IEG recently published an evaluation on the WBG’s approach to capital mobilization which includes lessons that could shed some light on these questions.
Coalitions such as GFANZ and CFP seek bankable projects, mostly in the infrastructure and energy sectors, requiring emerging economies to strengthen their policy and regulatory frameworks and raise industry standards in key sectors to attract investors. The WBG can continue to play a major role in addressing institutional barriers to private investment flows at the country level. Examples from Jordan and Ghana illustrate how WBG-supported policy and institutional reforms catalyzed private capital mobilization in the energy sector.
In Jordan, the Bank Group’s technical assistance and its support to public sector management reforms strengthened the power utility financially, boosted the development of the wind power market, and facilitated private investments in renewable energy. In Ghana, the WBG supported reforms to strengthen the financial sustainability of the state off-taker in the power sector and promoted the introduction of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative standards, which facilitated private investments.
With the release of its 2021-25 Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP), the WBG put forward strong commitments to mobilize more private capital for climate action and prioritize adaptation efforts, recognizing that developing countries are bearing the brunt of climate change effects. Avenues to mobilize private capital streams into adaptation are not near as wide and clear as they are for mitigation. In fact, only 2% of tracked adaptation finance comes from the private sector. Turning this around will require a great deal of innovation from the WBG and all other Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) to structure instruments and platforms that yield PCM deals for adaptation in emerging economies.
Through its CCAP, the WBG is committing to linking climate and development goals and integrating climate objectives into all its work. Similarly, the Bank Group -and other DFIs – should seek to structurally expand PCM efforts across all sectors and regions by creating more incentives for teams to increase their financial structuring expertise and use of PCM mechanisms, even in sectors where financing is typically done through direct lending.
The WBG, and other DFIs, have thus a critical role in ensuring pledges like that of the GFANZ and the CFP represent opportunities for emerging economies. Greater innovation is required to ensure valuable financial structuring expertise is mainstreamed and geared towards all sectors, including those associated with adaptation efforts.
As the global development community moves forward with its efforts to mobilize private investment towards climate and development objectives, clarity regarding the standards and taxonomy surrounding climate finance should also be achieved. Avoiding confusion regarding the differences between climate finance, green finance, transformational finance, etc., can prevent these terminologies from becoming another obstacle for the flow of private capital to where its most needed.
IEG is committed to building a strong body of evaluation evidence and gathering lessons, identifying what works and what doesn’t, as the WBG advances private capital mobilization towards achieving its green, resilient, and inclusive development objectives.