Landmark nature finance report finds that more than half (58%) of Irish lending goes to economic sectors with a high dependency on biodiversity & nature

The Nature of Finance’, Ireland’s first study on nature-related risks and opportunities to the financial sector has found that more than half (58%) of lending from Irish financial institutions is going to sectors that are highly dependent on ecosystem services provided by nature, while 94% (€85 billion) of lending goes to sectors that potentially have a high impact on nature. The landmark study, authored by KPMG and commissioned by the Dublin-based International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence, is understood to be the first independent assessment of nature-related risks and opportunities for Ireland’s financial sector.

Nature of Finance Report

Supported by Skillnet Ireland, the International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence is an output of Ireland’s first national Sustainable Finance Roadmap with members across the Irish and global financial services sector. Through knowledge sharing, training, and research activities, the Centre seeks to accelerate the mobilisation of capital and financing in support of Ireland’s net zero, nature positive and just economic transition.

The report shows a clear link between bank lending in Ireland and economic sectors that are highly dependent on ecosystem services and impacting on nature. Ecosystem services, which are vital for the functioning of the global economy, include:

  • Surface water
  • Ground water
  • Climate regulation
  • Flood and storm protection
  • Mass stabilisation and erosion control
  • Pollination
  • Filtration and many more.

The authors propose a draft Nature Finance Roadmap to position Ireland as a leader on the nature finance agenda but acknowledge the skills gap as a key barrier to progress and the urgent requirement of common frameworks, data, tools and languages. Collaborative initiatives are urgently needed to develop a pipeline of nature projects that are financially viable, showcasing scalable solutions with well-defined business cases and measurable success criteria. While there’s a growing number of projects in progress in Ireland, there’s a crucial need for a more effective process to bridge the gap and connect on-the-ground projects with potential financiers. This disconnect is a challenge that requires swift and improved solutions to accelerate the financing of nature restoration. The Roadmap is built around five pillars:

  • Develop talent;
  • Improve industry readiness;
  • Leverage digital and data;
  • Create a nature positive enabling environment; and
  • Enhance communication and engagements on nature and finance risks and opportunities.

The research team reviewed similar studies from Netherlands, France, Brazil and Malaysia and conducted interviews with staff from the European Central Bank (ECB), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), De Nederlandsche Bank and other institutions. The lending data comes from 80 credit institutions regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Stephen Nolan, CEO of the International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence, said:

This groundbreaking study outlines macro-level opportunities for Ireland, enabling the private sector to offer nature-positive solutions. Ireland is well-placed to take an early-mover advantage, emerging as a leader on the global stage. With COP28 just co ming to a close,this report is a timely intervention that gives an overview of the current state of play in the area of nature finance and responds to action 8 of the Irish Sustainable Finance Roadmap.”.

Thomas Ball, Director, KPMG Sustainable Futures, commented:

“This has been an exciting and important project to work on with the International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence. Our report highlights that today, more than ever, the financial sector has an urgent and essential task of assessing and mitigating nature-related risks and impacts and ultimately supporting and financing nature protection and restoration in Ireland and overseas. There are no doubt challenges to overcome, but there are immense opportunities and benefits for the financial sector and our people, natural environment, and the Irish economy.”

Eoin McDonnell, Skillnet Ireland Head of strategic Programmes, said:

“Sustainability has become an essential part of all businesses across all sectors. Since launching last year, the International Sustainable Finance Centre of Excellence, alongside Sustainable Finance Skillnet, has made a significant impact by developing new insights and providing sustainable finance training to financial service professionals across Ireland. Through bespoke upskilling programmes delivered through our 70 Skillnet Business Networks, and targeted initiatives like the Skillnet Climate Ready Academy, Skillnet Ireland is committed to equipping businesses with the skills needed to remain competitive and grow sustainably.”