Global sustainable bond volumes to top $650 billion this year – Moody’s

Global issuance of green, social and sustainability bonds – or sustainable bonds – will hit a record of $650 billion in 2021, a 32% increase over the $491 billion issued in 2020, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Still, the growth would be a moderation over the 52% growth achieved between 2019 and 2020, when sustainable bond issuance rose to $491 billion from $324 billion. Moody’s said that growth in social and sustainability bond issuance will slow as coronavirus pandemic-related financings begin to stagnate.

“We forecast $375 billion of green bonds, $150 billion of social bonds and $125 billion of sustainability bonds in 2021,” said Matthew Kuchtyak, assistant vice president at Moody’s Investors Service.

“We expect green bond issuance to jump by 39% this year as the economy continues to rebound and issuers increasingly pursue debt financing for environmentally-friendly projects.”

Sustainable bonds may represent 8-10% of total global bond issuance in 2021, after accounting for 5.5% of total issuance last year. Growth in social and sustainability bond issuance will slow, however, as coronavirus pandemic-related financings begin to plateau. 

Moody’s expects social bonds to grow by 6% this year, after increasing seven-fold in 2020, while sustainability bonds will grow 58% after doubling last year.

“We expect the new (US) administration will pursue policies linking economic and environmental objectives while supporting innovation in clean energy, reducing US reliance on fossil fuels and reviewing the capital markets approach on ESG (Environment, Social and Corporate Governance)  and climate,” the report said.

Moody’s said that key sustainable finance developments will advance significantly this year – particularly sustainability-linked bonds and transition finance. Sustainability-linked bonds have strong growth potential, as they allow issuers to maintain the flexibility of general corporate purposes borrowing while potentially still appealing to sustainability-minded investors.

Companies will seek to finance their carbon transition plans with both use-of-proceeds and sustainability-linked bonds as relevant standards advance, although the definition of credible transition targets across a wide range of sectors remains a hurdle to rapid market growth.

Governmental policy will further support sustainable debt market growth and development in the year ahead, as governments around the world heighten their focus on climate change and link economic recovery plans with sustainable development goals.

Europe will continue to lead the way with the EU Green Deal and development of a sustainable finance taxonomy, while the Biden administration’s policies will provide a boon for sustainable finance and investment in the US.

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060 also suggest a resumption of growth in sustainable debt volumes in that market.

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