Environmentalists are increasingly investing in “green bonds” to avoid supporting fossil fuel development and aid its cleaner competitors, but the strategy might be backfiring.
“Green bonds” are financial securities that fund renewable energy projects such as wind farms or solar plants. Interest in the bonds has soared in the past half-decade, from totaling around $10 billion in 2013 to around $161 billion in 2017, The Wall Street Journal reports.
As the bonds have risen in popularity, so too has misleading and fraudulent advertising of the investments. The environmental watchdog group Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) cut out more than a fifth of its $114.2 billion portfolio in 2018. Many investments advertised as “clean” or “renewable” actually channel funds to oil, gas and coal plants. The worst offenders are located in China and developing countries.
The green bond market has only existed for about a decade. CBI is the best “gatekeeper” the industry has, but even it lacks a rigorous system of rooting out which investments are being advertised correctly and which are scams.
“We really need to improve the definition of what it means to be a green bond as right now, even a dirty-brown corporate can carve out a deal that looks green,” Hermes Investment Management head of fixed income Andrew Jackson told TheWSJ.
“Green bonds” have risen in popularity alongside an international movement by environmentalists to push companies and institutions to divest from fossil fuels. (RELATED: Green Economist Admits Fossil Fuel Divestment Doesn’t Accomplish Anything)
The campaign to divest is intended to harm fossil fuel energy companies as a way of combatting climate change. Despite the goal, the campaign has not been particularly effective, a recent study found.
“In this new research paper, Tyler Hansen and I concluded that divestment campaigns have not been especially effective as a means of significantly reducing CO2 emissions, and they are not likely to become more effective over time,” University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor Robert Pollin said in an interview.
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