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SEB’s The Green Bond report: darkest before dawn

In the latest issue of SEB’s The Green Bond report, we look at why transition investment has levelled off and explain why a renewed decline in prices across the transition supply chains suggests the setback will be temporary. The fact that sustainable debt transactions and clean energy equities have both bottomed out support this optimistic scenario. Last month was the strongest ever January for new sustainable debt transactions, with total issuance rising 14% from 2023. 

“2023 still looks like a missed opportunity when it comes to the energy transition,” says Thomas Thygesen, Head of Strategy and Sustainability in SEB Equity Research. “However, it looks like a pause rather than a trend change, because the underlying technology drivers remain intact.”  

“The combination of falling prices and rising volumes is a hallmark of technological revolutions, and prices are now falling again – not just for renewable energy itself but also for complementary technologies like EV batteries,” says Thomas Thygesen. “This will eventually lead to a market-driven change to a zero-emission energy system, but not necessarily at the speed that we need. More policy support is needed to get the job done by 2050, not least in Europe and across developing economies.” 

The report also features an update on the sustainable finance market. Green, social, sustainability, and sustainability-linked bond and loan transactions in 2023 reached USD 1.34 trillion, the second year-on-year decline in a row. Data indicates that sustainable debt and equities bottomed out in late 2023, and that 2024 will be a year of recovery and growth.  

“January 2024 surprised on the upside,” says Gregor Vulturius, Lead Scientist and Advisor at Climate & Sustainable Finance at SEB. “With more than USD 147 billion in new sustainable bonds and loans, last month was the best January ever for the sustainable finance market. Green, social, sustainability and sustainability-linked bonds represented more than 4.1 per cent of global debt capital market issuance in January, and 8.1 per cent in Europe including the Nordics." 

This edition of The Green Bond report focuses on greenwashing risk. SEB’s regulatory experts summarize recent actions by policymakers and regulators in the EU to combat claims or actions that do not clearly and fairly reflect the underlying sustainability profile of an entity, a financial product, or financial services including the EU Green Claims Directive as well as financial and non-financial disclosure regulations.  

The report also contains a preview of an updated version of the Nordic Position Paper on Green Bonds Impact Reporting, which will be published in March. Furthermore, The Green Bond report also includes a summary of a recent seminar on greenwashing risk organized by SEB.  

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.

The Green Bond report February 2024