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What are the rules for issuing green bonds and their regulatory implications?

Green Bonds Issuance: Rules and Regulatory Implications

The global financial market has seen an accelerating growth in the popularity of green bonds, also known as climate bonds, due to increasing environmental consciousness and commitments to sustainable development. Green bonds are debt securities that financial, non-financial, or public entities issue to raise money for climate change and environmental projects. In this discussion, we will look into the rules and regulatory implications of issuing these bonds.

The Rules Governing Green Bond Issuance

Various voluntary international frameworks and principles govern the issuance of green bonds. These include the Green Bond Principles (GBP) by the International Capital Market Association (ICMA), the Climate Bonds Standard by the Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI), and the Green Loan Principles (GLP) by the Loan Market Association. They provide issuers with guidance on key components of green bond issuances, including the use of proceeds, project evaluation and selection, management of proceeds, and reporting.

Use of Proceeds

The use of proceeds is a fundamental aspect of a green bond and differentiates it from other traditional bonds. The entire or a major portion of the funds raised from green bond issuance must be allocated for new or existing projects that promote positive environmental benefits. The GBP provides categories of eligible green projects such as renewable energy, pollution prevention and control, sustainable natural resources and land use, climate change adaptation, and green buildings.

Project Evaluation and Selection

The issuer is required to disclose to investors its environmental sustainability objectives. The evaluation process ensures that the projects align with the issuer’s corporate sustainability strategy.

Management of Proceeds

The issuer’s auditor or another third party should verify the net proceeds from the issuance and move them to a sub-account, sub-portfolio, or other tracked location.


The issuer is also expected to provide, on at least an annual basis, an update of the use of proceeds. The report should contain a list of the projects to which green bond proceeds have been allocated, their expected impact, the amount allocated to each project and the balance of unallocated proceeds.

Regulatory Implications

Disclosure Rules

Issuers of green bonds have to adhere to rigorous disclosure rules. These obligations ensure transparency, accountability and alignment with the self-declared green objectives. This presents legal and reputational risks for issuers who fail to comply. Incorrect or misleading disclosure can lead to legal liabilities under securities law and increased scrutiny by regulators.

Standardization and Regulation

At present, many rules and frameworks for green bonds are nonbinding and voluntary, but there is a gradual shift towards standardization and regulation in several jurisdictions. The European Union, for instance, is moving towards a Green Bond Standard that aligns with its ambitious sustainable finance strategy.

Rating Agencies and Third-party Assessment

Credit rating agencies have incorporated Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risk into their credit ratings, which can affect the bonds’ risk profile. Additionally, issuers may engage third-party assessment or verification providers for second opinions to enhance credibility.

Risk of Greenwashing

Greenwashing is the deceptive practice of marketing conventional bonds as green bonds without meeting the necessary standards. Regulatory bodies are keen on minimizing such misleading marketing methods; failure to comply could lead to hefty fines or even bans from issuance for the offenders.

End Note

While green bond issuances present numerous opportunities for issuers and investors alike, they also come with distinct regulatory implications. Compliance with the internationally accepted green bond guidelines and local regulations is integral to the successful issuance and acceptance of green bonds in the global market. As the market evolves and becomes more mature, issuers need to stay abreast of the guidelines and regulatory standards necessary to minimize risks and ensure their green bond issuances align with sustainability goals.