Press Release – Reclaim Finance

Paris, November 24th 2021 – Sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) policies used by G20 and Eurosystem central banks are either non-existent, opaque or failing to consider environmental impacts, reveals a new report by Reclaim Finance. Out of 37 central banks, only a handful have even minimal restrictions on their investments in fossil fuels and one has credible plans to align its non-monetary portfolios (1) with the Paris Agreement.

Introducing climate criteria into non-monetary portfolios presents far fewer hurdles than for cental banks’ policy portfolios (2). Yet the report unveils a shocking lack of progress even amongst those more active on the climate issue.

Of the 14 banks nominally committed to investing responsibly – just over a quarter of G20 and Eurosystem central banks – all come from Europe. Yet of these, nine have highly opaque socially responsible investment (SRI) policies (3), including six that do not disclose any credible information whatsoever to justify their SRI claims (4). In the Eurosystem, eight banks are still to adopt any kind of SRI approach, including Greece, Lithuania and Slovakia. Apart from a lack of transparency, the report identifies four tricks used by central banks to depict themselves as responsible investors while continuing to invest in major polluters (5).

Only four central banks – in France, Slovenia, Germany and Switzerland (6) – have some kind of fossil fuel restriction. With the exception of France, these restrictions are especially limited and flawed, enabling banks to continue to finance fossil fuel development and/or the coal sector.

While the Banque de France sets a strong example that should inspire its counterparts, notably with regard to the need to scale down fossil fuel production and oppose new projects, its policy still has flaws, notably to clearly exclude fossil fuel developers. Similarly, Bank of Finland’s recent carbon neutrality pledge is a positive signal, but, as the related emission targets and fossil fuel criteria are yet to be defined, the quality of the policy remains highly uncertain.

Paul Schreiber, campaigner at Reclaim Finance, explains: Free from any mandate concerns, the greening of non-policy portfolios is the lowest hanging fruit for any central bank that wants to act on climate. However, most G20 and Eurosystem central banks have not even begun thinking about moving in that direction, even as the private financial sector comes under enormous pressure to do just that. Only one of the 37 banks analyzed is seriously considering the climate issue in its investment policy, while a mere four have restrictions on fossil fuel investments. The most prominent feature of central banks’ SRI policies remains their opacity, a field where the ECB should be awarded a special prize for its refusal to disclose meaningful information on its supposed sustainable investment policy even as it advertises its new climate roadmap.

Reclaim Finance urges central banks to adopt strong policies that include: 1) a general commitment to align on a 1.5°C trajectory and to exit fossil fuels by 2050; 2) a fossil fuel policy that bars investment in companies that develop new fossil fuel production projects; 3) a Paris-aligned coal exit policy; 4) a policy regarding unconventional oil and gas (7). Beyond non-policy portfolios, the report calls on central banks to decarbonize their monetary policy – starting with their quantitative easing programs and collateral frameworks – and on the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) to push for these recommendations.

Read the full report

Press contacts:

Angus Satow | Media Manager at Reclaim Finance | | +447847754046

Paul Schreiber | Campaigner at Reclaim Finance |


The SRI policies of G20 and Eurosystem central banks were assessed based on the public information available, notably through central banks’ websites, annual reports, sustainability reports and recent speeches dealing with environmental issues. The findings were cross-checked against various reports and databases. The findings do not include announcements made after October 26th 2021.


  1. Non-monetary portfolios gather “own portfolios”, “pension portfolios” and “third-party portfolios” (for more detail, see the NGFS’ terminology here).
  2. The report also contains information about the few criteria adopted on monetary portfolios. It stresses that the effect of the decarbonization of policy portfolios would be far greater than the one of non-monetary portfolios but that it often triggers long debates and can easily be sidelined due to mandate concerns. If the report underlines that central banks can and must decarbonize their policy portfolios, it acknowledges that doing so for their non-monetary portfolios is a rather uncontroversial and easy step.
  3. Germany, Italy and the European Central Bank (ECB) disclose some information about their policy but do not provide the detailed list of criteria used. The ECB recently rejected a request from Reclaim Finance to disclose the criteria used on its non-policy portfolios, leaving summary information about the purchase of green bonds and the use of “low-carbon” benchmarks.
  4. Central banks from Austria, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Ireland disclose little to no information on their SRI policies. They stop at saying that they apply SIR policies, without describing the criteria – or even the objective – they set.
  5. Central banks use five tricks to pass as responsible investors while continuing to invest in major polluters: maintaining opacity; investing in green bonds; waving the principles for responsible investment (PRI); focusing on “best-in-class” approach; and settling for toothless international norms. These tricks are analyzed in the report.
  6. The policy used by the Swiss National Bank and Bank of Slovenia focus solely on coal and do not ensure the end of support to coal developers, nor to companies that produce significant quantities of coal or coal power. The Bundesbank uses a single fossil fuel criterion on only a few of the third-party portfolios it manages, and this criterion seems to be rigged with massive loopholes – notably leaving fossil gas untouched. Banque de France’s policy is the only one that ensures a swift exit of the coal sector and accounts – though still partially – for the need to reduce oil and gas production and to end fossil fuel expansion.
  7. The recommendations for central banks’ investment policies are detailed in the conclusion of the report.