The climate change debate is in the headlines again. In Istanbul, the Climate Investment Funds partnership forum – organised by the World Bank and co-hosted by the EBRD – gathers 6-7 November to discuss ways to stimulate investment in green energy. However, much has already been achieved.

Today, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is proud to announce a milestone in its climate change mitigation activity.

EBRD financing under its Sustainable Energy Initiative has reached €10 billion since its launch in 2006, with the financing of the new 53 MW Kukinia wind farm in Poland – our 552nd climate change mitigation project.  These EBRD-financed projects are estimated to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by over 50 million tonnes, equivalent to the annual emissions of Sweden.

This milestone was announced today in Istanbul during an EBRD panel discussion held in parallel with the Climate Investment Funds 2012 Partnership Forum. SEI has financed 552 projects ranging from the insulation of a nursery in Slovakia to energy efficiency credit lines in Turkey. The project that brings total EBRD SEI financing to €10 billion is the new 53 MW Kukinia wind farm in Poland.

“The energy intensity of economies in the region of EBRD operations remains very high, despite some progress.  Sustainable energy has grown into a major activity of the EBRD accounting for a third of EBRD investments in 2011. From Turkey to Russia, from Mongolia to Slovakia we are working with industries, utilities, municipalities and households to enhance their energy efficiency. The EBRD has proven over the years that energy efficiency makes good business sense,” says Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the EBRD President.

Our biggest effort is now in Turkey where sustainable energy projects account for nearly a half of the EBRD’s investment – about €1 billion since we arrived in the country in 2008. Our projects saved almost 1 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A modern economy is an economy moving on a low-carbon path. Businesses should therefore look ahead and invest in the most efficient solutions. By reducing energy use, businesses can reduce costs and gain protection from supply shocks. The EBRD has proven over the years that energy efficiency can and should equal good business sense. We are calling on other investors to consider energy efficiency projects.

But governments must also provide legislative and regulatory frameworks that support energy efficiency. This can be done through: cost-reflective pricing; setting standards for equipment that promote the use of high-efficiency appliances, machinery and vehicles; and providing appropriate incentives to further investment in developing and deploying high-efficiency solutions where price mechanism may not be sufficient.

Ever more frequent natural catastrophes should remind policymakers to provide a more supportive context to efforts to protect our climate and earth. At the EBRD we will continue to work hard on the business-driven sustainable energy opportunities that already exist – and there are enough to keep us busy.  But what we are really hoping for is a much-expanded scope of investment brought about by policies which place the care for our future environment at their heart. Hard-nosed business and investment will follow.