AIWW PAC-member Karine Méasson is head of the water management division in the projects directorate at the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Luxembourg. Before, she worked in different senior roles on climate, gender and sector policies in both the projects and lending directorate. “I am thrilled that my job allows me to contribute to finding solutions to some of the most pressing challenges our world is facing today. There is so much to do, but we have so little time left to change things. The clock is ticking.”

What are you currently working on at EIB?
“This year biodiversity is high on our agenda. One of the many things we have learned from the global shock of COVID-19 crisis is how closely humanity is linked to nature.”

This work needs to be seen in the context of EIB’s role as the EU’s climate bank. As the lending arm of the European Union, we are the biggest multilateral financial institution in the world and one of the largest providers of climate finance. We invest in initiatives that create links between people, businesses and economies, addressing the challenges and risks of our changing world. The EIB is also the largest multilateral lender to the water sector. We have three water divisions working on lending and advising in which more than 30 water experts are working on projects in the EU and beyond. Our teams have a unique skill set, which makes it easy for us to adapt to the needs in each country.”

Can you give a few examples of projects you fund?
“Last week the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Société Publique de Gestion de l’Eau (SPGE) in Wallonia announced a €4.5 million agreement to finance a series of projects in Wallonia specifically intended to improve biodiversity and restore and preserve ecosystems. In particular, this loan will support the efforts of SPGE to re-establish the conditions enabling the freshwater pearl mussel to return to the rivers and streams of Wallonia. The pearl mussel is native to most European rivers, but over the last century has seen a decline of over 90%, reflecting the global decline in biodiversity and freshwater life. This project is a nice illustration of our effective partnership with the European Commission under the Natural Capital Financing Facility.
In January we also extended the scope of our Sustainability Awareness Bonds to “protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems” in line with the EU taxonomy regulation. Sustainable finance must be a pillar of the global response to the challenge of climate and environmental degradation and I’m proud to see that EIB is at the forefront, leading by example in lending and funding.”

What is your opinion on the AIWW themes?
“They are extremely relevant and timely. After the pandemic, we need our economy to become truly green, to focus on sustainability, biodiversity and circularity. The EIB can help finance relevant projects with our ambitious commitment to dedicate 50% of our lending to climate action and environmental sustainability by 2025. I am very thankful to be associated to the AIWW, as it offers an excellent opportunity to tackle major challenges and to learn from a wide range of players in the field: cities, utility companies, scientists, the industry. Each AIWW community member looks at the themes from a different angle; we can exchange knowledge and experience, share good practises and see what we can do together. In any case, working together is the key to success.”

Do you have any suggestions for sharing ideas and practises, especially now meeting face to face is difficult due to the pandemic?
“With less informal meetings and exchanges, this can prove challenging for knowledge sharing and creativity. Still, internally, we have tried to facilitate online knowledge sharing sessions on various water topics during the year. We have recently set-up a climate advisory facility for water in the EU allowing the EIB technical team to provide free advisory to clients in the EU. Online interactions will really help us to increase our effectiveness. Another nice positive effect of the crisis is also that many events are now organised online and can really bring the water community together!”

If someone in the water sector has a good idea, that needs budget to be brought to life… How will they be taken into consideration for a loan?
“The EIB stands ready to support with appropriate tenors, policy aligned incentives and flexibility to accommodate small investments.

Before taking a decision to finance a project we thoroughly assess it . We call this process due diligence. It requires an analysis of the creditworthiness of the borrower on one side and a stringent due diligence of the project on the other side: Is there proper planning for the project? Is it embedded in the right policy? Does the project have a proper economic justification? Is it in line with procurement rules? Was a proper environmental and social due diligence carried out? Before we lend we aim to make sure we will be making a sustainable investment. This also means we pay special attention to the climate impact of each project. Overall, we focus on large projects or programs with an aggregated cost reaching at least EUR 50m. But we use different tools in different countries. Sometimes the water sector in a country is more scattered, and if a smaller investment is needed, we can help by connecting the project promoter with commercial local banks through which we lend.

We recognise that not every promoter is ready with an investment programme which is of sufficient quality. So, we provide technical assistance to enhance the development impact of projects and strengthen the capacity of those involved in implementation. We can provide impartial advice on the preparation and structuring of projects, to increase their ability of finding financing. Please contact the European Investment Advisory Hub to have more information on this.”

Can you give a good example of 1 or 2 successful cases, that were funded by EIB?

“We have a longstanding relationship with the water sector in Romania, which the EIB has supported with both advisory through JASPERS the joint assistance program from the European Commission and EIB, and through lending. A few years ago, the EIB approved a programme loan for the water sector in Romania. It will allow the Bank to support the implementation of priority projects which will further improve Romania’s compliance with the EU Drinking Water and Urban Waste Water Treatment Directives.

Our recent Clean and Sustainable Ocean initiatives are also critical ones. They aim at helping countries to reduce the discharge of plastic and other pollutants into the ocean, and to preserve the health of the oceans and coasts. Here also partnerships are key as we launched the Clean Oceans Initiative two years ago with our partners AFD and KfW. This allowed us to support a few critical wastewater and urban drainage projects, for instance in Egypt, Benin or Argentina. We have also secured a EUR 6 m Technical assistance facility to support the preparation of projects in Africa.”