Europe’s first Bitcoin ETF receives ESG label

Europe’s first Bitcoin ETF receives ESG label

Jacobi Asset Management declares its Bitcoin ETF as an ESG-compliant fund under EU rules.

Europe’s first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) has been declared as an Article 8 fund by its issuer, marking a bold intersection of cryptocurrency and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing. By receiving this designation, the fund is legally obligated under European Union rules to advance ESG causes. 

Jacobi FT Wilshire Bitcoin ETF joins a diverse portfolio of Article 8 financial products, a category which, according to Bloomberg, encapsulates roughly $6 trillion in assets.

Breaking new ground in applying ESG rules to crypto

The news marks a shift in how ESG standards are applied within the financial landscape. Until this announcement, there had been no instance of a Bitcoin ETF being positioned as an ESG-compliant fund based on EU guidelines. Martin Bednall, the CEO of Jacobi Asset Management and a BlackRock alum, has conveyed to investors that the ETF aims for full decarbonization, Bloomberg reported.

The fund’s ESG status is anchored in its investment in renewable energy certificates (RECs). Jacobi’s rationale is based on the fact these RECs offset the carbon footprint generated by Bitcoin (BTC) mining, the primary activity tracked by the ETF. These certificates supposedly fund sufficient renewable energy projects to neutralize the greenhouse gas emissions tied to Bitcoin’s energy consumption.

However, the label has drawn criticism from various quarters, questioning the legitimacy of positioning a Bitcoin-focused fund as ESG-compliant. Bitcoin mining is notorious for its colossal energy appetite. According to estimates, the mining process consumes around 140 terawatt-hours per annum, a figure roughly equivalent to Norway’s and Argentina’s entire annual electricity production.

Research by Cambridge University also suggests that only 38% of BTC mining relies on sustainable energy, contrasting sharply with industry claims that put the figure closer to 60%.

Matthew Brander, a carbon accounting expert at the University of Edinburgh, criticized Jacobi’s decarbonization strategy as lacking credibility. According to Brander, RECs don’t necessarily establish a direct link between digital assets like crypto and renewable power generation.

Overall, it’s evident that Jacobi Asset Management has taken a bold move, opening the path for rigorous scrutiny from environmental experts and activists. It might, however, also widen the scope for Bitcoin ETFs to be integrated more effectively into wider financial instruments in the West. 

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