Policy brief

Green certificates: a better version of green bonds

"The current design of green bonds means they aren't fulfilling their potential. We propose an alternative: issuance of regular bonds with attached gr

Publishing date
26 November 2020

The market for green bonds is growing rapidly and has been boosted by the European Commission’s plan to raise through green bonds 30 percent of the up to €750 billion that will be borrowed under the Next Generation EU coronavirus economic recovery programme. But while green bonds can reduce the financing costs of green projects and technologies, their current design means they fall short of fulfilling their full potential. Issuing green bonds alongside regular bonds fragments bond issues, reducing liquidity and thus increasing financing costs. Moreover, green bond prices reflect liquidity, credit risk and environmental performance jointly, which makes it difficult to isolate the part of the return on the bonds that relates to environmental performance.

We propose an alternative: issuance of regular bonds with attached green certificates that ensure earmarking for green purposes. The new design would lead to more liquid securities (as only regular bonds are issued), which would reduce financing costs and in turn would provide incentives to start a greater number of environmentally-friendly projects. The new design would also make market prices more informative about environmental performance. In addition, green certificates would address the criticism that green bonds are used mostly for refinancing existing green projects rather than for new projects.

Sovereigns are among the largest issuers of bonds and are therefore natural candidates for implementation of green certificates. The European Commission could also issue regular bonds and green certificates to finance the European Union’s recovery package, and should include green certificates in the under-preparation EU Green Bond standard. Commission issuance of green certificates would give a major boost to EU bonds as liquid safe assets while promoting green investment.

Recommended citation

Bongaerts, D. and D. Schoenmaker (2020) ‘Green certificates: a better version of green bonds’, Policy Contribution 2020/20, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Dirk Schoenmaker

    Dirk Schoenmaker is a Non-Resident Fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Banking and Finance at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam and a Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Research (CEPR). He has published in the areas of sustainable finance, central banking, financial supervision and stability and European financial integration.

    Dirk is author of ‘Governance of International Banking: The Financial Trilemma’ (Oxford University Press) and co-author of the textbooks ‘Financial Markets and Institutions: A European perspective’ (Cambridge University Press) and ‘Principles of Sustainable Finance’ (Oxford University Press). He earned his PhD in economics at the London School of Economics.

    Before joining RSM, Dirk was Dean of the Duisenberg school of finance from 2009 to 2015. From 1998 to 2008, he served at the Netherlands Ministry of Finance. In the 1990s, he served at the Bank of England. He is a regular consultant for the IMF, the OECD and the European Commission.

  • Dion Bongaerts

    Dion Bongaerts is an Associate Professor of Finance at RSM Erasmus university. He specializes in the behavior of credit rating agencies, the pricing of credit risky instruments, and the origins and effects of market illiquidity. His work has been presented at major conferences around the world, including the AFA, WFA, EFA and NBER meetings and published in top tier academic journals including the Journal of Finance. He has received several grants, including a Veni grant from the Dutch National Science Foundation (NWO) and a Lamfalussy Fellowship from the ECB. Dr Bongaerts holds a PhD degree in Finance from the University of Amsterdam, an MSc in Econometrics from Maastricht University and has been a visiting scholar at Yale School of Management. Moreover, he has several years of professional experience as a risk management quant at ABN-AMRO bank.

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