Green government bond: the latest colour on the investment palette

In May, the Dutch State raised EUR 5.9 billion at its first green bond auction. The government is planning to use this long-term loan to finance a wide range of sustainable projects. ABN AMRO made this very first green bond a reality. Elvira Eurlings of the Dutch Ministry of Finance and Camiel van Steekelenburg of ABN AMRO talk about why investors are so excited and what the future holds for these unique government bonds.

The green bond auction is special for several reasons. With a twenty-year maturity date, it’s the very first green bond ever issued by the Dutch government, and the first in the world to be launched by a country with a triple-A credit rating. Plus subsequent investments will focus on sustainable initiatives in such a way that the bond can be classified not just as “green”, but “dark green”. With all the ingredients for success, the auction raised an impressive EUR 21 billion in investor subscriptions.

Boost

“Because of its size, the government is in the perfect position to give a boost to the green capital market,” says Elvira Eurlings, Debt Agent with the Dutch Ministry of Finance, “not to mention that we’re a very credible player with the highest possible credit rating.”

ABN AMRO, for its part, was selected as Sole Green Structuring Adviser for the green government bond. In that capacity, the bank advised the government in the run-up to the bond issue and assisted the Ministry of Finance in identifying suitable strategies to allocate public funds and in developing the Green Bond Framework. ABN AMRO will be managing the secondary market for the duration of the bond. 

“ABN AMRO is no stranger to green bonds,” says Camiel van Steekelenburg, Global Head of DCM & Debt Syndicates at ABN AMRO. “The bank started issuing its own green bonds back in 2015, and we’ve been structuring them for our clients since that time as well. Over the last five years, we’ve really built up a strong track record in this area.”

The perfect palette

“Green bonds have since taken off in a big way,” Camiel continues. “Investors have embraced them as a new means of diversifying their investment portfolios and of supporting the global economy in combating the climate crisis and transitioning from a waste to a circular model. We see this latest initiative by the Dutch government as its way of perfecting the capital market investment palette. Not only are government bonds the investment product with the least amount of risk – now they’re green, too!”

The issue drew investors from all over the EU, and even some from outside Europe. The capital raised isn’t earmarked for a special fund, but is linked to environment- and climate-related investments the government makes. There are four categories of expenditure: renewable energy, energy efficiency, the Delta Programme (involving changes to dykes and water management) and the Dutch rail network. The impact of the investments will be assessed on an ongoing basis, says Elvira: “We’ll be keeping our investors in the loop, informing them of what we’re doing to minimise carbon emissions and protect against rising sea levels.”

There are plans to reopen the bond in the future until the total target volume of EUR 10 billion is reached. Elvira says, “We feel it’s important to keep pace with government spending, since we don’t want any excess liquidity to go unused.”

On the agenda

Green bonds act as an incentive, agrees Camiel. He says, “The government has used the bond to put this topic squarely on the agenda in boardrooms across the country. Soon everyone will be asking one another, ‘So do you have any green bonds yet?’”

Want to know more about green bonds? Contact Joop Hessels or Camiel van Steekelenburg.