A Green Taxonomy to Pave the Way for Financial Markets
In April 2022, Colombia became the first country in the Western Hemisphere to adopt a national green taxonomy. A green taxonomy is a classification tool that allows lenders and borrowers to identify economic activities that contribute to specific environmental targets. The taxonomy will be used to issue green bonds and will play a key role in channeling private sector capital towards its environmental priorities.
Call for Sustainability in Infrastructure Projects
The government has been cognizant of the importance of developing key infrastructure while managing environmental and social risks. Since 2012, it has been pursuing the development of infrastructure through concession projects involving public-private partnerships (PPPs). In November 2021, the government published the Guidelines for the Development of Sustainable Transport Infrastructure Projects for the Fifth Generation of Concessions (CONPES 4060 of 2021). The Guidelines integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria in the structuring, financing, operation, and monitoring of projects. The Fifth Generation Concessions program is set to implement 14 projects with an investment of COP 21.8 billion, encompassing rail, river, and airport projects.
ESG Integration for the Financial Sector
In the same vein, the Financial Superintendence of Colombia (SFC) has issued requirements for integrating ESG and climate risks in the investment policy and governance arrangements of pension funds and insurance companies. It has also increased disclosure requirements for funds with ESG, sustainability and/or green claims, set ESG and climate risk reporting requirements for listed companies and published supervisory expectations on climate risk management for banks.
The World Bank Supported Colombia in Every Step of the Way
The World Bank Treasury's Sustainable Finance Advisory provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, in coordination with the Inter-American Development Bank, to facilitate the structuring and issuance of the sovereign green bond.
The World Bank and IFC together supported the development of Colombia’s national green taxonomy. They worked with the Financial Superintendence and the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit to ensure that the taxonomy was adapted to the local context while following the highest international environmental sustainability standards such as the European Union's Green Taxonomy and the International Capital Markets Association's Green Bond Principles. In particular, the World Bank helped develop the criteria for the land-use sector, comprising forestry, agriculture, and livestock, which is responsible for 59 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Colombia.
“Due to the predominance of small farms in Colombia, the taxonomy classifies land-use improvements in three levels of complexity and cost: basic, intermediate, and advanced. This allows farms of all sizes to introduce improvements according to their circumstances,” said Farah Imrana Hussain, who led the sovereign green bond and green taxonomy initiatives. The taxonomy considers Colombia’s socioeconomic context and the associated environmental challenges and targets (water and soil management, climate mitigation and adaptation, protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services) that have been incorporated into its environmental policy and regulatory system.
For each sector, the taxonomy’s eligibility criteria consist of the minimum legal requirements locally applicable, “do no significant harm” measures to protect natural resources and a set of sustainable practices and technologies that have been tried, tested and deemed feasible in Colombia. Roundtables were organized across ministries with Colombian technical experts in forestry, agriculture, and livestock industries. World Bank agribusiness specialists and environmental and climate change specialists contributed to the development of the criteria.
Separately, the World Bank created a National Diagnostic on ESG criteria implementation and is working with the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit to prepare a methodology to integrate ESG considerations into guidelines for PPP projects. The Methodology takes every phase of the project cycle into account — from structuring to financing, operation, monitoring and risk evaluation. The ESG methodology is in line with the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework and the IFC Sustainability Standards.
Colombia built a strong foundation for sustainable financing
Having made impressive strides in creating an enabling regulatory environment for sustainable financing, Colombia built a strong foundation to achieve its ambitious climate and biodiversity conservation goals as well as manage the financial sector’s exposure to ESG risks.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with Colombia as it takes multi-pronged actions to foster inclusive and environmentally sustainable economic growth,” said Peter Siegenthaler.