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Call for GIB 'public interest' test

Civil society and business groups have set out five tests for prospective buyers of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) to ensure it continues to act and invest in the public interest.

When business secretary Sajid Javid announced the bank’s privatisation was underway, he promised it “would continue to do what it says on the tin”.

Measures to protect its green function include a ’special share’, to be held by an independent company, which would then have to give consent if the GIB looked to change its sustainability focus.

But some stakeholders maintained concerns over the bank’s particular focus on innovation, with the Environmental Audit Committee failing to win an extra ‘safeguard’.

Now the Aldersgate Group, the Green Alliance and others have said the bank would only retain their support if new owners passed its ‘public interest prospectus’.

The five tests are:

  1. Maintaining the integrity of the GIB as a single, functioning institution
  2. Deploying at least £4bn of new GIB capital in the UK’s low-carbon economy over three years
  3. Scaling up citizen finance
  4. Keeping the GIB at the forefront of the green infrastructure market
  5. Ensuring best-in-class standards of governance and transparency

Green Alliance

Angela Francis

Green Alliance economist Angela Francis (pictured) told MRW the ‘special share’ related only to the bank’s green focus while the group intended its test to protect the GIB’s support for innovative technologies.

“The GIB was set up to invest in projects that required more specialist expertise to realise their commercial potential. What the GIB hass been doing for the past few years is what the rest of the banking sector is now following. It provides a bridge.

“That’s what we would like it to continue to do for the next 20 years for all the new technologies that are to come.”

The proposed tests will be sent to the Government during the GIB’s initial bid round during the next six weeks.

Energy policy consultant E3G criticised the Government for not holding a consultation or call for evidence on privatisation “to make sure they get the best outcome for the public interest”.

Head of the UK programme, Sepi Golzari-Munro, said: “There were three rounds of evidence gathering over three years to produce an evidence base for the GIB’s creation.

“Given it was born of such a robust basis, to then rush this through without any consultation is a real shame.”

The consultancy had produced a report for the EAC meeting in December which scrutinised the privatisation decision.

Greenpeace UK and Client Earth also contributed.

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