The European Central Bank is shyly committed to the environment

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The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt am Main in January.
The headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt am Main in January. DANIEL ROLAND / AFP

Climate change is not a theory. It is a fact. " This Thursday, November 8, in Berlin, Benoît Cœuré, member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), lists the long list of upheavals induced by human activity: rising oceans, melting ice, storms … Besides the tragedy that 'they represent, all will have an effect on monetary policy,' he explains. That is why "All authorities, including the ECB, must reflect and consider an appropriate response".

For the general public, this sounds like nothing, but in the policed ​​and immutable world of central bankers, Benoît Cœuré's words sound like a small revolution. "This speech will have a strong impact: the role of the ECB in the climate has finally entered the debate", welcomes Stan Jourdan of Positive Money, an NGO calling on the institution to "green" its action.

At first glance, however, ecology does not have much to do with its mandate of ensuring price stability. Through interest rates, the ECB determines the rent of money and, in so doing, regulates the amount of credit and price developments.

However, since the 2008 financial crisis, it has significantly expanded its toolbox. To reduce the cost of borrowing and revitalize the business, it launched in 2015, a vast program of public debt buyback to the tune of 80 billion euros per month (the pace has declined since then), the quantitative easing (QE), in English. In 2016, it was expanded to corporate debt.

But here it is: Among the private bonds bought back are many polluting industries, such as the oil groups Total, Shell or Repsol. Shocked, a series of NGOs were quick to step up to the plate, denouncing climaticides subsidies » of the Frankfurt institution.

A first step

In December 2017, in The world, several economists and personalities, including Jean Jouzel, former figure of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), or Pascal Lamy, former Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) from 2005 to 2013 , have proposed a European pact for the climate, suggesting that part of the massive firepower of the QE (2 500 billion euros injected into the economy) is put at the service of the climate. Their idea: that the ECB lend more massively to the European Investment Bank (EIB), responsible for investing in green projects in turn.