EBRD 2017 Annual Meeting: the journey to green growth

By Jane  Ross

EBRD steps up green financing in build up to Paris climate conference

Green growth makes economic sense

What does green growth mean? There is still no universally agreed definition, despite the increasing use of the term by countries, policy makers and MDBs.  But in general terms green growth is understood as economic development that is environmentally sustainable, low carbon and socially inclusive.

Green growth makes economic sense. Indeed, the EBRD has long recognised that we cannot achieve economic transition -- and growth -- without environmental sustainability. Being ‘green’ is a critical feature of a well-functioning market economy. Along with being competitive, inclusive, well-governed, integrated and resilient.

Green growth an event organised by the EBRD’s Environmental and Sustainability Development at this year’s Annual Meeting and Business Forum.

The Journey to Green Growth… Seeking Solutions to the Challenges began with an overview of how green growth lies at the core of everything  the EBRD does. Alistair Clark, Managing Director, highlighted how the EBRD is tackling environmental challenges and encouraging green growth across its region of operations through investments, ground-breaking projects and new approaches.

In 2016 the Bank invested €2.9 billion (one-third of the EBRD’s total investments) in green economy projects and through them avoided 5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Thanks to the EBRD, an estimated 13.7 million people now have improved wastewater treatment and 850,000 have better urban transport services.

Just as importantly, the EBRD’s projects are fostering green and inclusive growth through supporting jobs and training for young people and designing projects with specific gender considerations.

Launching the latest  Sustainability Report , which focuses on Impact, Assurance and Engagement, Alistair Clark stated that  2016 was year of progress, from influencing reforms and policy dialogue to delivering concrete projects on the ground.

The EBRD also officially rolled out the Green Economy Transition (GET) approach, which puts investments that are of benefit to the environment right at the centre of the Bank’s activity.

Many EBRD clients are already experiencing the rewards of using energy, water and other resources with greater efficiency. Thanks to the EBRD, millions of people who live in cities across the EBRD regions are benefiting from improved road safety; cleaner, more-efficient transport; advances in waste management; and from the creation of safer and more attractive urban centres under our Green Cities Programme.

We also continue to support the social arm of our sustainability work in the form of gender and inclusion activities as well as crisis response.

And we can already see the influence of the EBRD’s work in creating robust systems for assurance (guidelines, assessments and web-based tools), in setting higher standards, in delivering tangible results that benefit businesses and communities alike, and making a green business model the new norm across the EBRD regions and beyond.

With support from our donors, municipal authorities and the private sector, we’re improving urban landscapes across our region under our new Green Cities Programme.

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This was followed by a panel discussion which explored the concept of green growth and its relevance to EBRD’s countries of operations, the Bank’s role promoting effective green and inclusive growth, and the solutions necessary to achieve positive sustainable development.

Moderated by Jonathan Charles, EBRD Managing Director, Communications, the panel featured Cameron Hepburn, Director of Economics of Sustainability Programme, Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School; Ms Jacqueline McGlade, Division Director, United Nations Environment Programme; and Dimitri Zenghelis, Joint-Head Climate Policy, London School of Economics

In their introductory remarks each of the panellists agreed that the pace of environmental change is happening faster than we realised but we still do not know enough about the full extent of its impact and implications.

But they offered some solutions as to how to avoid, mitigate and prepare for risks in the short and long term. As Jacqueline McGlade said: ‘There is a lot to cover and a lot for experts and institutions like the EBRD to do’.

Cameron Hepburn believes that how we build our cities will make a big difference. He acknowledged the growing trend for legal suits against urban developments in the UK, Poland and Australia, which could make entities think twice before investing in infrastructure that compromises green growth.

Dmitri Zenghelis believed that economists should be helping design the future, rather than predict it (‘they often get it very wrong’), through contributing more to mechanisms and guidelines for policy-makers.

As a scientist, Ms McGlade called for keeping fake news away, and ensuring data and evidence about impacts and transactions are available and understandable in a language that everyone – including the general public – understands.

Most of all she urged an exchange of ideas. She told the audience: ‘Imagine constructing a building made of carbon fibres and baked onto granite. It then creates its own solar power. Everything is chargeable. A dream? We’re creating such a building in the Rift Valley in Africa. And its for the public good, and not for profit’. This freer imparting of ideas, knowledge, skills and expertise goes hand-in-hand with re-thinking the way we assign rights to intellectual property. As she stressed, ‘a shared economy is part of the green economy’.

The event concluded with the 2017 EBRD Sustainability Awards which recognise the efforts of clients who have demonstrated excellence and a commitment beyond the Bank’s performance requirements, in four categories: Sustainable Energy; Climate Change Adaptation; Environmental and Social Best Practice; and Environmental and Social Innovation.

This year, the EBRD received 30 nominations across the four categories and the winners were selected by an external judging panel consisting of experts in finance and sustainability.

The quality of nominations this year was exceptional and shortlisting deserving clients was challenging – indeed, one category had joint winners.

This year’s Sustainable Energy Award winner was Erdemir Steel (Turkey), the largest steel producer in Turkey. Thanks to the EBRD’s investment, the company now generates electricity (and saves energy) by introducing technology that uses high-pressure gases collected from the blast furnaces. This project is among the largest emission-reduction initiatives ever undertaken in the Turkish industrial sector.

The Climate Change Adaptation Award went to the Ministry of Transportation, Roads Company of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Bosnia Roads Flood Repair and Upgrade project. The EBRD provided a loan to repair major road infrastructure badly damaged by 2014 floods and  to help improve the climate resilience of the road network.  It has set up an institutional network and introduced international best practice for identifying and managing climate risks to the roads.

Senj Sant (Mongolia) won the Environmental and Social Best Practice Award

With EBRD support  the company became the country’s first greenfield cement plant to use the environmentally friendly dry process, resulting in five times less water consumption and 30 per cent less energy use than the wet-method technology.

The company also excels and sets an example for its social responsibility programmes. In addition, Senj Sant continuously improves working and living conditions for its employees and is a well-known promoter of gender equality and empowerment of women: its Board is composed by women only, which is extremely rare in such a male-dominated sector as mining.

Green City bus project (or Tibilisi Bus and Green Cities Programme ) in Tbilisi, Georgia, won the Sustainability Award in the category of Environmental and Social Innovation. An EBRD sovereign loan helped acquire 200 green, compressed natural gas buses with low floors which provide easier comfort, access and convenience for women, the elderly and those with limited physical abilities.  The bus company is also boosting gender equality among its workforce and has helped pioneer the development of a Green City Action Plan.

The panel of judges for the 2017 Sustainability Awards were Geoff Lane, a Partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP in the UK, and PwC's Liaison Delegate at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; Mark Hurley who leads the 800+ people strong environmental discipline at WSP/ Parsons Brinckerhoff and is a member of the UK Executive Leadership Team; Kadri Samsunlu,  Chief Financial Officer at Akfen Holding, and a Member of the Board of Directors of Akfen Holding Group Companies; and Libor Krkoska, who has been the Head of the EBRD Resident Office in Nicosia, Cyprus, since August 2014.