Finance sector plays important role in directing capital for environmental benefit: Masagos Zulkifli

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli speaking at a forum organised by sustainable media organisation Eco-Business, on Jan 22, 2019.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli speaking at a forum organised by sustainable media organisation Eco-Business, on Jan 22, 2019.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Developer City Developments Limited got the ball rolling in 2017 when it issued Singapore's first green bond; now around $2 billion of such products have been released here by local and foreign issuers.

Banks such as OCBC and Standard Chartered are also jumping on the sustainability bandwagon.

Last June, OCBC partnered agribusiness giant Wilmar on a US$200 million bilateral loan that linked interest rates to key performance indicators centred on sustainability.

Meanwhile StanChart decided last September to stop funding coal-powered plants.

These developments are among the latest efforts made by financial institutions here to be sustainable and come in an era where climate change is no longer a distant threat, but an immediate one, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli.

Mr Masagos told a forum organised by sustainable media organisation Eco-Business on Tuesday (Jan 22): "The finance sector plays an important role in unlocking and directing capital flows towards economic activities with environmental benefits.

"It is encouraging to see growing numbers of investors who want to 'do well' and 'do good' at the same time.

"Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon, but one that is near and present. It is a long-term issue that will require the commitment of governments, investors, businesses and consumers."

Mr Masagos urged financial institutions to keep contributing to the development of new environmental, social and governance-related products "that the global economy will need, as it moves towards greater sustainability".

A report by DBS and UN Environment on Green Finance Opportunities in Asean said that an estimated US$200 billion of green investment is needed annually from 2016 to 2030 in this region.

Mr Masagos added that Singapore has been taking steps to increase its financial sustainability. Most recently, locally based Sindicatum Renewable Energy issued green bonds that aim to support its projects in the Philippines.

Last year, OCBC was the joint lead manager and bookrunner for China General Nuclear Power Corporation's EUR500 million green bond. It was the bank's first green bond transaction.

Ms Koh Ching Ching, head of group brand and communications at OCBC, said in a statement: "By partnering government bodies, advocates and citizen groups, we hope that our collective efforts can lead to impactful action to achieve sustainable development and climate action."

Mr Surya Bagchi, StanChart's global head of project and export finance, added: "Mobilising finance to support a low-carbon energy future is a key priority in our fight against climate change."

CDL, as a frontrunner in sustainability, is hoping that other businesses and sectors can also play a part in their own areas.

Ms Esther An, its chief sustainability officer, said: "Green financing plays a pivotal role to channel capital to building greener and more resilient cities and infrastructure.

"With the global shift to a low carbon and resilient economy, sustainable financing vehicles, be it bonds or loans, will have tremendous growth potential.

"Businesses can look at what material impact they can make in their field and see it not as a cost but an investment for the future."

This is the second year the forum, entitled "Unlocking Capital for Sustainability", has been held. The event at the St Regis hotel attracted around 100 finance and business leaders, project developers and entrepreneurs.