25 years of investing in the green economy

By Anthony Williams

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From the start the EBRD placed emphasis on environmental protection and sustainable use of energy

Right from the very start of its operations 25 years ago, the EBRD placed a major emphasis on environmental protection and the sustainable use of energy.

After all, the countries of central Europe and the former Soviet Union were some of the most energy-intensive economies in the world. Pollution was rife. Energy waste was endemic.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development sets out what steps the Bank is taking with the global movement to combat climate change.


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In the agreement establishing the EBRD in 1991, the Bank pledged “to promote in the full range of its activities environmentally sound and sustainable development” and to report annually on the environmental impact of its activities.

By 2006, the EBRD’s activities, especially in energy effiency and renewable energy development, were brought under the umbrella of the Bank’s Sustainable Energy Initiative.

The Bank’s approach was as comprehensive as it was diverse, ranging from large-scale projects like a US$ 300 million clean-up loan to Russian oil major LUKOIL  to tiny credits to private households and small firms in facilities via local banks.

If there had ever been any doubt, it was now clear within the Bank that energy efficiency and sustainable resource utilisation was an integral part of the transition process. By promoting energy efficiency, the EBRD was making a contribution to the fight against climate change and helping economies to become more competitive.

A symbol of this approach was the case of a Bulgarian baker who used an EBRD energy efficiency loan back in the mid-2000s that slashed his annual energy bill by 85 per cent.

Fast forward to December 2015 and leaders from across the whole world are meeting in Paris at the COP21 climate talks to seal an historic accord to slow the pace of global warming. The EBRD’s contribution was a pledge to devote 40 per cent of its annual investments to climate change by 2020, doubling the pace of its climate financing.

So far since 2006, the EBRD has invested €19.5 billion in 1,095 sustainable energy and resource projects with a total value of over €107 billion, leading the way among development banks in engaging the private sector and the financial industry in addressing the climate challenge.

The Bank has also been pioneering in the way it has tailored its products to suit the needs of individual countries and clients, rolling out initiatives such as the EBRD’s Caucasus Energy Efficiency Programme, a credit line for banks in the region to help firms and households finance sustainable energy investments.

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