Agence France Trésor is today publishing a new environmental impact assessment report, as part of its monitoring of expenditure backed by the Green OAT. The work presented today concerns the public subsidy to the Office national des forêts (ONF), the body that manages public forests in France. This subsidy represented €175 million per year out of the €860 million ONF budget [in 2016-2017]. In addition to production activities, it enables the ONF to carry out missions to protect ecosystems and enhance their value for visitors. The ONF manages 10.9 million hectares (around 40% of France's forests), including 4.6 million hectares in mainland France and 6.3 million hectares overseas.
The report highlights the environmental benefits associated with ONF management, particularly in contrast to private practices. The ONF practises more extensive felling (with an estimated additional volume of 3 million cubic metres per year): combined with sustainable management practices, they contribute, albeit modestly, to mitigating climate change by substituting wood for other materials or fuels that emit more carbon. In addition, the ONF is also involved in climate change adaptation policies, through the adaptation of plantations, fire prevention and protection against natural hazards. It also participates in the collection of data useful to scientists. Finally, the ONF is an important player in the promotion of biodiversity. Thanks in particular to its targeted actions to protect vulnerable species, protected areas account for 34% of public forests (compared with 23% in private forests).
This report, carried out by the teams of the French General Commission for Sustainable Development (CGDD), was supervised by the Green OAT Evaluation Council, which brings together independent experts in the fields of green finance and environmental policies. The Council defined the methodological framework for the study and appointed two independent referees, Marion Vinot-Gosselin (INRAE) and Jean-Luc Peyron (ECOFOR), to ensure the study's transparency and compliance with academic standards.
Approving the results of the evaluation, the Council underlined its quality and welcomed the mobilisation of quantified approaches, for the climate change mitigation and biodiversity components, as well as results of a more qualitative nature, in the part devoted to adaptation to climate change.
"This evaluation represents a fair contribution in the field of impact assessments of green bonds. It provides a relevant methodology for the multiple facets of public forest management. Moreover, it covers both mainland France and overseas France, and focuses on the effects of ONF's strategic choices in the medium as well as in the long term" says Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Chairman of the Green OAT Evaluation Council, former Minister of the Environment of Peru and Chairman of COP20, and WWF's Director for Climate & Energy.
"This is the third report produced by the Evaluation Council, which had previously expressed its views on the ecological transition tax credit and on the French waterways. Study after study, this work enables us to report with great precision on the environmental impact of the Green OAT eligible expenditure. Such transparency is at the heart of the commitments made by France to investors and citizens at the time of the inaugural issue of the Green OAT in 2017" says Anthony Requin, Director General of Agence France Trésor.
On 24 January 2017, AFT launched the first green sovereign bond for a benchmark size, the 1.75% 25 June 2039 Green OAT, whose outstanding amount currently stands at €27.4 billion. Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, Finance and Recovery, announced in October 2020 that France would create a new green bond in 2021. Green debt emissions are backed by eligible green expenditure, which contributes to France's environmental and climate policy.
This green expenditure must meet one of the four objectives of the Green OAT: the fight against climate change, adaptation to climate change, protection of biodiversity and reduction of pollution. To meet these objectives, the programmes financed by the Green OAT belong to six main sectors: building, energy, transport, living resources, pollution and adaptation.
When the Green OAT was issued, the French government made a commitment to report on the environmental impact of this expenditure, which helps to set high standards within this market. The performance of these studies is supervised by the Green OAT Assessment Board.
Chaired by Mr. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, former Minister of the Environment in Peru and President of COP20, and WWF's Director for Climate & Energy, the Green OAT Evaluation Council is currently composed of five other independent experts:
- Mr. Mats Andersson, Vice-President of the Global Challenges Foundation and former CEO of AP4, Sweden's fourth largest national pension fund;
- Ms. Nathalie Girouard, Head of the Environmental Performance and Reporting Division at the OECD;
- Ms. Karin Kemper, Senior Director of Global Environment and Natural Resources Practices at the World Bank;
- Mr Thomas Sterner, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Gothenburg;
- Mr Eric Usher, Head of the Secretariat of the UNEP Finance Initiative.
In addition to this list, there are two observers:
- Mr. Sean Kidney, co-founder and CEO of the Climate Bond Initiative;
- Mr. Nicholas Pfaff, Senior Director of Market Practices and Regulatory Policy at the International Capital Market Association (ICMA).
The Green OAT Assessment Board defines the terms of reference and the programming of the environmental impact assessment reports for eligible green expenditures backed by the French Green Sovereign Bond. It also gives its opinion on the quality of the impact assessment reports and the relevance of the results. The Secretariat of the Evaluation Council is provided jointly by the CGDD and the Treasury Department.
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