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SEB’s The Green Bond Report: Sustainable Finance Eclipses 2020 Record

Sustainable finance continued its strong performance in the second quarter, resulting in total volumes of new bonds and loans in the first half of 2021 surpassing the total reached in all of 2020. In the latest issue of SEB’s report The Green Bond, titled Green Regulation Takes Shape, we provide an update of the sustainable finance development and take a closer look at the regulatory changes recently proposed by the EU to reach its climate goals. We also explore how the first half of 2021 was a setback when it comes to the transition effort, as investments in clean energy declined.

“Where green bonds used to lead the sustainability debt agenda, sustainability is now about to go mainstream across regions, sectors and products,” says Christopher Flensborg, Head of Climate & Sustainable Finance at SEB.

Total sustainable bond issuance amounted to USD 569bn in the first half of 2021, exceeding the total issuance in all of 2020 and supporting our issuance forecast of close to USD 1.2trn for the full year of 2021. Total new volumes of sustainable financing - bonds and loans - stood at USD 761bn in the first half of this year, already exceeding the record total USD 759bn reached in all of 2020.

The development was driven by rapid growth in performance-based products like sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs) and sustainability-linked loans (SLLs). At USD 43.4bn, SLB volumes are so far this year already almost four times higher than the total issued in 2020 as a whole. SLL volumes, at USD 170.6bn, have at the same time already eclipsed the total amount for 2020 by almost 30%. Proceeds issuance, or green bonds, social bonds, sustainability bonds and green loans, also continued to grow, with total volumes reaching USD 547bn in the first half of this year. That is already equivalent to 89% of the total issued in all of 2020.

“The numbers show that the market for performance-based debt is quickly gathering momentum as both borrowers and lenders gain confidence in sustainability-linked products,” says Gregor Vulturius, Advisor at Climate & Sustainable Finance at SEB and co-editor of The Green Bond. “At the same time, the continued growth in use-of-proceeds products refute the notion that there is a zero-sum game between use-of-proceeds and performance-based products in the sustainable debt market.”

In this issue of The Green Bond, we also explore some of the key regulatory changes that the European Commission has proposed in its “Fit for 55 Package” in order to further its climate and sustainability agenda as set out in the European Green Deal. We conclude that the main effect of this package is likely to be an increase in the cost of using fossil fuels, which will help accelerate the transition.

In the report, we also look at the progress of the clean energy transition. While evidence of a climate crisis has been mounting this year in the shape of record-high temperatures, droughts, wildfires and flooding, the first half of this year was a setback regarding the transition effort. Global investments in clean energy declined by roughly 25% in the first quarter compared with the quarterly average for 2020, most likely due to effects stemming from the pandemic.

“Nonetheless, we remain optimistic about the chance to decarbonise the economy in time,” says Thomas Thygesen, Head of Research, Climate & Sustainable Finance, at SEB. “The political commitment will just keep getting stronger as the adverse effects become clearer and the key technologies required for transition are just about to reach the point where they start scaling for real. The coming years are thus likely to see a surge in investment alongside a continued improvement in the efficiency of zero-emission technologies.”

About The Green Bond report
SEB, which together with the World Bank developed the green bond concept in 2007/2008, publishes the research publication The Green Bond 5-6 times a year. It strives to bring readers the latest insight into the world of sustainable finance through various themes. Even though the report covers all kinds of products and developments in the sustainable finance market, we have decided to keep its historic name – The Green Bond – as a tribute to our role as a pioneer of the green bond market. You can find The Green Bond report at 
sebgroup.com and here.

For more information, contact:
Lina Apsheva, Climate & Sustainable Finance
+46 70 767 6527

Press contact:
Niklas Magnusson, Group Press Officer
+46 70 763 8243

SEB is a leading northern European financial services group with a strong belief that entrepreneurial minds and innovative companies are key in creating a better world. We take a long-term perspective and support our customers in good times and bad. In Sweden and the Baltic countries, SEB offers financial advice and a wide range of financial services. In Denmark, Finland, Norway, Germany and the United Kingdom, the bank's operations have a strong focus on corporate and investment banking based on a full-service offering to corporate and institutional clients. The international nature of SEB's business is reflected in our presence in more than 20 countries worldwide, with around 15,500 employees. At 30 June 2021, the Group's total assets amounted to SEK 3,445bn while its assets under management totalled SEK 2,401bn. Read more about SEB at https://www.sebgroup.com