“Time for Action” has been the theme of COP25, but the omens were negative from the start, with unrest in host country Chile resulting in a late relocation to Madrid. The battle ahead was perhaps most aptly demonstrated by teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s long journey from Europe to Madrid via the UN in New York and Latin America — all without taking a single flight.

SDGs Action Zone UN web

Fortunately, the debt capital markets give more cause for hope. Generali and CNP Assurances brought the green bond concept to the European insurance industry in subordinated format, and we spoke to them about their motivations and strategies, as well as banks taking the market in new SDG-impactful directions, such as ANZ, Rabobank and RBS.

As well as assisting in many key transactions, Crédit Agricole itself in October took its green bond issuance into the senior non-preferred market, then in November launched an inaugural CA Home Loan SFH green covered bond while Crédit Agricole CIB sold a ground-breaking “transition bond” to AXA.

“Starting in 2009, Crédit Agricole has made significant progress to identify and promote green and sustainable financings within its ‘distribute to originate’ business model,” said the bank. “We are proud that AXA Group recognizes this expertise and partners with us to finance the environmental transition projects of some of our key clients.”

Incoming ECB president Christine Lagarde has already shown an openness to sustainability being increasingly integrated into the institution’s mission, but “time for action” could have been the rallying cry of Mario Draghi, in light of his regular exhortations to EU leaders to make structural changes and, latterly, to use fiscal policy more forcefully. CACIB Eurozone economist Louis Harreau gives his verdict on the central bank’s impact in this issue.

Finally, will the New Year be a time for action in the primary market? Boris Johnson’s victory in the UK general election as Bank+Insurance Hybrid Capital was going to press removes one uncertainty but potentially creates others, while who knows whether or not Donald Trump’s positive turn in the trade war saga will persist? In his primary market outlook, CACIB FI syndicate head Vincent Hoarau warns against complacency, but sees reasons to hope for a strong start to 2020.

Neil Day
Managing Editor