Invest International – a golden opportunity to green our trade relations
Daniëlle Hirsch and
Since his previous government, prime minister Mark Rutte has wanted to create a green legacy with Invest-NL and Invest International, two new financial organisations. With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, these organisations are more important than ever. Aiming to stimulate investment in sustainable and social projects, they will operate at a distance from the government so that they can act quickly and efficiently. With an initial budget of 2.5 billion euros, they will give financial support to companies active in sectors that the market avoids and which are at the heart of the transition. At Both ENDS, we see that as an essential step in closing the door for good on our old polluting lifestyle and putting sustainability at the centre of developments in the energy sector, in the organisation of our transport and mobility system, in how we produce our food and in the design of our cities.
Wouter Bos, former Dutch deputy prime minister, is in charge at Invest-NL, which was formally set up in 2019 after being approved by parliament. Now, Invest International is in the starting blocks. It is expected to make a flying start now that our economy has to emerge from the shock generated by COVID-19 as quickly and effectively as possible. As a trading nation, the Netherlands rightly looks not only within the borders of our small country, but also at the global arena, where a large part of our economic activities take place.
We are now faced with a golden opportunity. Now that everything is starting to move more quickly and at the same time there is a growing and lively discussion about what kind of future we want and where we should and should not invest, it is high time to take advantage of Invest International to pump capital into the economy of the future. Because the new fund will operate at a distance from the government, and therefore from democratic control mechanisms, it is crucial that the legislative framework in which it works – to be proposed later this year – lays down clear guidelines.
In concrete terms, this means in any case checks and balances to ensure that subsidies, insurance and other instruments do not have harmful effects on people and the environment. The fund’s activities should be based on existing international frameworks like the Paris Agreement and agreements on human and labour rights. In line with article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement, projects in the fossil sector must be excluded from funding by Invest International. Foreign trade and development minister Sigrid Kaagtook a promising first step in this direction in her financing letter (in Dutch) of February 2019.
Exclusion – determining in advance what Invest International above all must not finance – is important. But the scope for real ambition lies of course in what Invest International does wish to do. What is the aim of the fund? As far as we are concerned, the more ambitious it is, the better. Invest-International can profile itself as an organisation that can help Dutch companies wishing to make the world more fair and sustainable to access a global market that currently offers them insufficient opportunities. By basing its operations on international climate and human rights agreements, Invest International can contribute to achieving the Paris climate goals and the Sustainable Development Goals, and promote gender equality. We are more than willing to mobilise our international networks, which are full of knowledge and experience on sustainability, to help achieve these ambitions.
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