Endorsed by 24 leading research institutes and NGOs, including Reclaim Finance, Positive Money’s ‘Green Central Banking Scorecard’ finds that while G20 central banks made progress on sustainable research and advocacy, this rarely translated into concrete action, leading campaigners to demand they ‘walk the walk’ on climate change.
In fact, while 14 out of 20 central banks scored full marks on their research and advocacy efforts, no bank scored even 50% overall. China tops this year’s scorecard with an aggregate score of only 50 out of 130 (38%), reflecting the distance policymakers still have to go to align finance with agreed climate goals. European central banks are increasingly vocal on climate change but rank between 3rd and 7th, scoring between a third to a fifth of total points.
Paul Schreiber, campaigner at Reclaim Finance, explains: “While limiting its investments in fossil fuels and making proposals to “green” the European Central Bank (ECB) propelled the Banque de France above other European central banks and into third place, its score remains shockingly low. In fact, Eurosystem central banks have not implemented any of the monetary and prudential measures necessary to align with the Paris Agreement. If nothing changes, the Bank of England, which recently pledged to exclude large polluters from its asset purchases, is expected to soon overtake them.”
The report reveals an absence of high-impact policies that meaningfully reduce financial support for fossil fuels and highly polluting activities across the G20, either by shifting monetary operations or adapting the prudential framework. In cases where central banks have integrated climate into their policies, the focus has been on financial disclosures, stress tests, and encouraging lending towards green assets, rather than crucial steps to wind down financial support for fossil-fuel-intensive and ecologically harmful activities.
The case of the ECB encapsulates the findings of the report. While the launch of the bank’s strategy review was followed by climate speeches and the acknowledgement of its importance for monetary policy, the concrete measures taken by the bank do not contribute to the fight against climate change nor correct its carbon bias. The ECB has taken no “high impact” measures and the few measures implemented aim at better identifying climate risks, without adapting its monetary or prudential tools.
Schreiber continues: “The ECB and the Banque de France should listen to the tens of thousands of Europeans calling on them to put their money where their mouth is and act without delay . Even in 2021, central banks continue to focus on minor changes which offer little in the fight against climate change. This wait-and-see attitude has for decades contributed to the destruction of the planet while increasing financial risks, and is completely unjustifiable.”
The authors call for policymakers to urgently remedy this policy shortfall by taking action to exclude unsustainable activities from the assets they purchase and accept as collateral for lending, and for financial regulation to penalise high-carbon lending, with higher capital requirements to more accurately reflect the risk of fossil fuel investments.
David Barmes, Positive Money economist and lead author of the report, said:
“While it’s positive that central bankers are ‘talking the talk’ by featuring climate more prominently in speeches and research, there has been a widespread failure to ‘walk the walk’ by turning these words into concrete policy action.
“The 2008 crash showed financial markets cannot be left to self-regulate in the face of systemic risk, but by failing to confront the climate crisis we are repeating the same mistakes on an even bigger scale. Global finance will continue to generate instability and environmental breakdown until central banks and supervisors reshape the financial system to better serve people and the planet.
“Protecting environmental stability is a prerequisite for maintaining monetary and financial stability. If central banks are to fulfil their core mandates and support governments’ climate targets, they must step up action to clamp down on dirty financial flows.”