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Investing in Tomorrow: The Global Resurgence and Expansion of Green Bonds

By 17 May, 2024May 28th, 2024No Comments

Singapore skyline and green landscape

The green bond market has experienced a remarkable resurgence after a downturn in 2022, catapulting sustainable finance into the spotlight again. This article explores the dynamic landscape of innovative finance, with a specific emphasis on the rising prominence of green finance, driven by incentives fueling the expansion of green bonds. It will delve into the geographic proliferation of this market across the European Union and the burgeoning Asia-Pacific region. The latter emerges as a rapidly evolving frontier, brimming with opportunities, particularly in developing Southeast Asian nations buoyed by regulatory reforms.

The Rise of Green Finance: A Compelling Necessity

Green finance, also known as sustainable finance, harmonizes financial strategies with environmental and social considerations. Its objective is to channel capital from public, private, and non-profit sectors towards sustainable development goals. By aligning financial decisions with these objectives, it directs resources into sectors such as renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, clean water access, biodiversity conservation, and social welfare.

Several pivotal factors underpin green finance’s ascendancy, including a paradigm shift towards addressing ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) concerns, major economies’ commitments to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, heightened governmental efforts to foster sustainability, and global regulations shaping sustainable development. Consequently, green finance has gained widespread acceptance as a potent instrument for transitioning towards a sustainable economy.

Examples of sustainable fixed income instruments

Feature Green Loans Green Bonds Sustainability-Linked Loans
1. Purpose of Funding Dedicated to environmentally sustainable projects Used to finance environmental projects Can be used for sustainable purposes
2. Use of Proceeds Solely for environmentally friendly purposes Exclusively for environmental projects Flexible use for general corporate or sustainable projects
3. Borrower Obligations Must use funds solely for green projects Obliged to allocate proceeds to green projects Align financing with overall sustainability strategy
4. Eligibility Criteria Specific criteria to meet environmental standards Must meet green bond principles Performance targets tailored to sustainability goals
5. Financial Incentives May offer lower interest rates or better terms Offered based on achieving predefined targets
6. Project Focus Focus on specific green projects Focus solely on environmental projects Align financing with broader sustainability goals
7. Flexibility in Use of Funds Limited to green projects Funds exclusively for green projects Offers more flexibility in project selection
8. Risk Mitigation Ensures funds are used for intended purposes Assurance of proceeds being used for green projects Linked to performance, encourages sustainability improvements
9. Tailoring to Borrower’s Goals Limited flexibility in project selection Allows alignment with specific sustainability objectives
10. Regulatory Compliance Often required to meet certain standards Must adhere to green bond principles Focuses on meeting predefined sustainability KPIs
11. Market Adoption Growing trend in sustainable finance market Established market for funding environmental projects Increasing popularity in corporate financing

The Flourishing Green Finance Market and Its Mainstream Instrument

The global green finance market has experienced remarkable growth. According to market researchers such as Global Market Insights, Precedence Research, and Spherical Insight, the market was valued at over USD 4 trillion in 2023 and is projected to grow by 20-23% per annum, reaching an astounding USD 30 trillion by 2032. This underscores the urgency of allocating capital towards environmentally beneficial projects. Remarkably, green bonds constitute 34% of this market, serving as a vital catalyst for funding projects that combat climate change, support renewable energy, and foster sustainable infrastructure

Pivotal Role of Green Bonds in Driving the Global Green Finance Market

Green bonds trace their origins to 2007, when a United Nations report highlighted the link between global warming and human influence. This revelation prompted Swedish pension funds, SEB bank, the World Bank, and climate change experts to collaborate and contemplate funding environmentally positive projects. In 2008, the World Bank issued the first green bond, igniting a surge in popularity that saw issuances soar from USD 37 billion in 2014 to nearly USD 575 billion globally by 2023. This rapid growth shows how important green bonds have become for investors and issuers aiming to align with environmental sustainability goals.

Graphs showing Issuance of Green, Social, and Sustainability-Linked Bonds (also known as Sustainable Bonds) from 2014 to 2023, Issuance Weight of Different Sustainable Bonds in 2023

Europe’s Green Finance Dominance and Its Contribution to Global Sustainability Goals

The European region has consistently led the green finance market, commanding an average 50% market share over the past decade. After a temporary setback in 2022, European green bond issuances not only recovered but reached unprecedented heights in 2023, with Italy’s remarkable EUR 10 billion government-issued green bonds exemplifying this trend according to Bloomberg.

Graph showing Insurance of Green Bonds breakdown by Regions in 2014 - 2023

Looking forward, Europe is set to remain at the forefront of the green bond market. The European Union (EU) Commission, though a late entrant, has committed firmly to issuing EUR 250 billion in green bonds by 2026, integral to financing the EUR 800 billion NextGenerationEU (NGEU) recovery plan. This plan aims to drive sustainability, innovation, and inclusivity in the EU economy while hastening post-pandemic recovery across member states. Key aspects of the NGEU allocation include:

  • 37% allocated to national ecological transition plans, such as Italy’s initiative to enhance energy efficiency in 100,000 private buildings and Germany’s goal of lowering EV (Electric Vehicle) prices while installing 500,000 charging points.
  • 20% designated for digital transformation initiatives, like France’s plan to equip 45,000 classrooms with digital solutions and Croatia’s aim for complete digitization of public administration services.
  • Alignment with the International Capital Market Association’s (ICMA) green bond principles, validated by Vigeo Eiris, which is a part of Moody’s ESG Solutions.

Furthermore, the EU has introduced the European Green Bond Standard (EUGBS) regulation, which will be effective in late 2024, incentivizing investments aligned with climate objectives through a “European Green Bonds” (EUGBS) label.

Chart showing NextGenerationEU green bond framework

Overall, leveraging substantial funds through green bonds, the EU is poised to realize its regional recovery plan, transition to a low-carbon economy, and fulfill international commitments like the Paris Agreement. This proactive stance creates a ripple effect, extending the impact of green finance globally, fostering a more sustainable and resilient economy beyond Europe’s borders.

Asia-Pacific’s Burgeoning Green Bond Frontier

The Asia-Pacific region has witnessed a surge in green bond issuances, emerging as the second-largest market with a 32% share worth USD 190 billion between 2016 and 2023. China led this remarkable growth, issuing over USD 85 billion in green bonds in 2023, surpassing the USA to become the world’s largest issuer, according to Climate Bond Initiative data and Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Asian Bond Online.

China’s dominance in the green market is poised to continue, fueled by its commitment to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Estimates suggest that China needs RMB 140 trillion (USD 21.3 trillion) in debt financing over the next 40 years to meet its net-zero emissions target.

Japan and South Korea are also significant players in the Asia-Pacific green bond market. Japan’s 2022 issuances reached USD 15 billion with an average tenor of 10.1 years, aiming for a balanced allocation across green, social, and sustainable bonds. South Korea, on the other hand, issued USD 9.9 billion in green bonds in 2023, with a stronger focus on social bonds, accounting for over 50% of sustainable issuance. For example, Korea Housing Finance Corp. (KHFC), a state-owned provider of housing finance for low- and middle-income families, accounted for half of these social bonds.

India and Saudi Arabia have also contributed to the region’s green bond market development. India has become the 3rd biggest issuer in Asia-Pacific with over USD 15 billion in green bonds, highlighting its commitment to expanding renewable energy production and reducing carbon intensity. This is crucial to support India’s energy transition journey, as coal currently accounts for 55% of the country’s energy needs.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, issued about USD 15 billion in 2023, seeking to raise funds for environmentally-friendly projects and transition away from fossil fuels, the backbone of its economy.

The Asia-Pacific region is embracing green energy and sustainable transportation solutions at a rapid pace. Driven by the rising demand for renewables like solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power, as well as the adoption of electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, and green public transport, the region is undergoing a transformative shift. This has amplified the allocation of green bonds to the energy and transportation sectors, accounting for 69% of total green issuance in 2023. Innovative technologies such as carbon capture, smart grids, and energy storage are also gaining momentum, further reinforcing the region’s commitment to sustainability.

Chart showing Asia-Pacific’s green bond market breakdown by use of process/industries

Successful Green Bond Issuances in Southeast Asia

While China, South Korea, and Japan are expected to lead the way, countries in Southeast Asia including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are poised to catch up, as exemplified by recent successful green bond issuances in the region.

Recent successes with green bonds in Southeast Asia

Case Studies Indonesia’s Green Sukuk (2018) Republic of the Philippines Green Bond (2020) Energy Absolute’s Green Bond (Hanuman Wind Farm, Thailand)
Issuer The Government of Indonesia through the Ministry of Finance Republic of the Philippines Energy Absolute Public Company Limited
Bond Type Islamic bond Green bond Green bond
Purpose To support Indonesia’s goal in reducing greenhouse gas emissions To finance renewable energy and climate resilience projects Refinancing of EA’s 260 MW Hanuman Wind Farm in Chaiyaphum Province, Thailand
Amount Issued USD 1.25 billion USD 750 million THB 3 billion (~ USD 99 million)
Certification Reviewed by international independent reviewer CICERO and awarded medium green shade N/A Certified green bond issuance
Project Details All proceeds exclusively go to selected ‘eligible green projects’ based on the Green Bond and Green Sukuk Framework Supporting climate-resilient infrastructure and investment opportunities Supporting the long-term financing of the Hanuman Wind Farm, which has been operating since May 2019
Environmental Impact Funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects Contributing to a low-carbon economy Contributing to renewable energy generation
Investor Interest Attracted a broad range of investors including conventional, Islamic, and green investors N/A N/A
Market Response Successful issuance N/A N/A
Long-Term Benefits Contributing to Indonesia’s commitment to reduce GHG emissions Advancing sustainable development goals Advancing clean energy production in Thailand

Source: Ministry of Finance Republic of Indonesia, Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Evolving Regulatory Landscape in Asia-Pacific

The regulatory landscape in the Asia-Pacific market is rapidly evolving, shaping the future growth of green bonds. Global trends and local economic characteristics influence regulations, with proposals from EFRAG, SEC, and ISSB nearing finalization.

While some countries have utilized international principles for debt instrument guidelines, they also maintain local nuances. For instance, Japan has broader definitions for socially eligible categories, and countries like China and South Korea have established their own taxonomies, often referencing the EU taxonomy.

As the regulatory framework matures and aligns with global standards, transparency and investor demand for sustainable investment opportunities are anticipated to drive continued growth in green bonds across the Asia-Pacific region.

Regional regulatory landscape

Source: S&P Global


The green finance market, spearheaded by the remarkable rise of green bonds, signifies a profound shift towards sustainable investing and a global commitment to environmental stewardship. While Europe has been a trailblazer, the Asia-Pacific region emerges as a formidable force, catalyzed by supportive regulations and heightened investor awareness.

This growth underscores a global recognition of the imperative to integrate financial decisions with sustainability goals. Asia-Pacific’s embrace of green bonds will shape a greener, more resilient economy amidst the challenges posed by climate change, fostering a future where economic prosperity and environmental preservation coexist harmoniously.


Read more about our extensive advisory & strategy services.


The Flourishing Green Finance Market and Its Mainstream Instrument

Pivotal Role of Green Bonds in Driving the Global Green Finance Market

Europe’s Green Finance Dominance and Its Contribution to Global Sustainability Goals

Asia-Pacific’s Burgeoning Green Bond Frontier

The Evolving Regulatory Landscape in Asia-Pacific


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