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The ECB has invested over € 111 billion in carbon-intensive sectors

4 April 2019

PRESS RELEASE - BRUSSELS - PARIS - APRIL 4

A policy note published today by Positive Money Europe and the Veblen Institute for Economic Reforms presents an environmental assessment of corporate bond purchases by the European Central Bank (ECB) as part of its Quantitative Easing program.

Download the policy note here.

The policy note shows that the CSPP (Corporate Sector Purchase Program) has benefited the most carbon-intensive sectors and corporations: more than 110 billion euros (or nearly 63% of the program) have been invested in four sectors that contribute the most to global warming (fossil fuel extraction and distribution, the automotive sector, the most energy intensive industries, electricity generation). This finding reveals the mismatch between the EU’s climate objectives and the CSPP program.

The study is based on the analysis of two researchers* specialized in climate risk assessment. For the first time ever, the study produced a comparison of the estimated exposure for the six national central banks operating CSPP. The analysis reveals some trends:

- The portfolios of Spanish and Italian central banks are significantly more exposed to fossil fuels.

- The German Bundesbank is investing heavily in the automotive sector.

- The Banque de France portfolio reflects the European average. Its carbon exposure is lower because of the weighting of nuclear energy in the French electricity production system.

- The National Bank of Belgium and Bank of Finland are less exposed.

The study makes the following recommendations to the ECB:

- Implementing mandatory disclosure of the carbon footprint for the 280 companies benefiting from the CSPP;

- Stopping relying on rating agency services that have not included a carbon footprint criterion in their ratings;

- Gradually reducing the share of the most polluting sectors during the reinvestment phase of the CSPP. The ECB must disengage from purchasing the most carbon-intensive assets and buy more green bonds or climate-neutral assets;

- Integrating environmental criteria into refinancing operations via the collateral eligibility framework: additional haircuts must be implemented for the most carbon-intensive assets.

Wojtek Kalinowski, Co-Director of the Veblen Institute says:

"The ECB should pro-actively steer the financial markets towards more sustainability, rather than passively reproducing the current unsustainable market trends .This issue will not go away. If it sticks to a narrowly defined market neutrality, the ECB will continue to finance the most carbon-intensive sectors for decades to come."

Stanislas Jourdan, Head of Positive Money Europe says:

“As recognized by Mario Draghi, the ECB is bound to the objectives of the Paris agreement, and the European Parliament has already endorsed twice the integration of ESG criteria in the ECB policies. The ECB has full legitimacy to take action in making financial flows compatible with a low-carbon economy.”

Notes to editors:

[1] The technical analysis was conducted by Stefano Battiston (FINEXUS Center for Financial Networks and Sustainability at the University of Zurich) and Irene Monasterolo (Vienna University of Economics and Business and Boston University). To contact the authors: stefano.battiston uzh.ch / irenemon bu.edu

The study was previously published in French on 21 March 2019.

Positive Money Europe is a Brussels-based NGO advocating for a fair, democratic and sustainable monetary policy.

The Veblen Institute is a Paris-based think tank dedicated to public policies and social innovations in ecological transition, supported by the Charles-Léopold Mayer Foundation.

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