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How EBRD is sparking a green economic transition

In the book published by economist Nicholas Stern as COP 21 negotiations were coming to a head, he posed a simple question to the political and economic actors of the world. If a committed low-carbon transition could spark a new era of global prosperity through economic and technological transformation, “Why, then, are we waiting?”

For the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), one of the world’s largest multilateral development banks, the answer is simple: they aren’t waiting; they’re already investing in the transition.

The year 2015 was a landmark for our climate, as the year when the world’s nations spoke with one voice, and declared in Paris that economic growth must walk hand in hand with environmental protection. It was also a landmark year for the bank, as the year in which it launched its ‘Green Economy Transition’ (GET) initiative, a key instrument in delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Building on a decade of green investment, the GET approach seeks to increase the volume of green financing from an average of 24 per cent of EBRD annual business investment in the 10 years up to 2016, to 40 per cent by 2020. A central part of this investment will be in green building, an area where EBRD has to date invested some €2billion of its own capital, enabling over €15billion of investment in some 25 million square meters of green building projects. These projects are expected to achieve life-time savings of some 335 million tCO2e.

There is huge potential to scale-up investment in green buildings and associated technologies in the EBRD region. That is why as part of EBRD’s partnership with WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network, the bank has released a new set of publications on its GET approach for World Green Building Week 2017. These publications aim to help connect the community of states, cities, investors and developers who are driving the green building market, with the unique support offered by EBRD’s GET approach.

In 2015, the building renovation market in the EU’s 28 Member States was calculated to be worth nearly €109billion and was responsible for 882,900 direct and indirect jobs. Experts assert that by 2020, investments in energy efficiency in the European buildings sector can deliver around 19 net jobs for each €1million invested.

Moreover, a study conducted on the health benefits from improved indoor climate through the energy efficient renovation of buildings in the EU indicates these are valued between €33-73 billion per annum in 2020 in a low energy efficiency scenario, and are doubled to between €64-140 billion, in a high energy efficiency scenario.

As coordinator of the EU’s Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group, Peter Sweatman, notes: “Green building investments deliver more resilient and valuable real estate in cities and countries making these projects happen. Economies in transition in EBRD countries are well placed to reap the multiple economic, social and environmental benefits of this new asset class.”

Unlocking all this potential is not easy however. It requires a unique blend of financial investment, coupled with technical support, and policy dialogue to ensure markets are supported by the right regulatory instruments to help them thrive. That is precisely why EBRD’s GET approach combines a range of support across these areas, and why the bank works with networks of local actors such as Green Building Councils and their members in EBRD markets to help generate sustainable growth.

The bank’s message for World Green Building Week 2017 is that for green building leaders who, like them, are not willing to wait, they are open for business. Our Green Building Councils and their members look forward to working with EBRD to spark a green economic transition.

James Drinkwater is Director of WorldGBC’s Europe Regional Network

Read more about WorldGBC’s work with the EBRD here.