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China Focus: Banks boost green credit for green growth

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GUIYANG, July 20 (Xinhua) -- Major Chinese banks have vowed to offer strong credit support for the development of green economy amid China's drive to promote ecological progress and curb pollution.

Building a mechanism to provide positive incentives will be key to the development of green finance, according to a consensus reached by more than 10 financial institutions including the "big four" state-owned banks at an on-going ecological forum in Guiyang, capital city of southwest China's Guizhou Province.

The "big four" refers to Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of China and Agricultural Bank of China.

The mechanism will accelerate capital influx into the green economy sectors, according to the consensus.

Zhang Hongli, vice president of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), said the ICBC has been improving its credit classification standard based on the "Equator Principles." The bank applies green credit policies on 61 sectors.

The principles are a voluntary set of guidelines which require signatory banks to incorporate social and environmental issues in project financing.

The China Construction Bank (CCB) also set down its own marketing guide for green credit which incorporates into it the concept of the "Equator Principles," said the bank' s vice president Zhu Hongbo.

The CCB' s green credit business transactions have sustained fast growth in recent years, Zhu said.

By 2012, the CCB had loaned about 239.6 billion yuan (about 39.04 billion U.S. dollars) for clean energy, energy saving and other related environmental friendly projects, according to Zhu.

China introduced the green credit concept in July 2007, as part of its enforcement of eco-friendly economic policies. Communications between environmental monitors and banks saw some plants blacklisted from receiving loans because of their pollution record.

In the guidelines of green credits released in March last year, the China Banking Regulatory Commission urged Chinese banks to use green credits as a tool to support the nation to cut carbon emissions while achieving a sustainable growth.

Banks should "pay special attention" to environmental and social impacts possibly caused by their customers' projects and, based on assessment results, determine credit ratings and entry and exit terms, according to the guidelines.

Last month, the State Council, China's cabinet, outlined a string of measures for curbing air pollution that is plaguing the country, and offering more credit support for projects to reduce air pollution is listed as one of them.

Experts, however, warned of challenges ahead in developing green finance, noting that the service is still in its initial stage of development in China.

"Some environmental projects entail long-term investment, hefty management costs, and some of them have no good economic returns," said Guo Tianyong, director of China's banking research center at the Central University of Finance Economics.

As economic entities which are in pursuit of profit maximization, commercial banks lack in impetus to develop green finance, according to Guo.

Moreover, "a lack of specific guidance catalogue on green credit reduces the operability of green credit measures," Guo said.

Financial regulatory authorities should improve existing regulations to encourage banks to develop green finance, such as specifying statistical caliber of green loans and punishing banks which offer loans to heavily polluting companies, he said.

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