Paragliders protest ECB support for fossil fuels

March 12, 2021|Written by GCB News|European Central Bank

Greenpeace activists landed a motorised paraglider on the roof of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) Frankfurt headquarters on March 10, protesting the bank’s continuing support for fossil fuels in its monetary policy. 

The protest occurred hours before a meeting of the ECB’s governing board and highlighted disproportionate funding of the fossil fuel industry and carbon-intensive sectors. A large sign reading “Stop funding climate killers!” was displayed from the bank’s press centre while another paraglider circled the building, trailing a banner reading: “Act on climate now”. 

“Carbon bias is rife at the European Central Bank,” Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said in a press release accompanying the protest. “Instead of favouring fossil fuels, the ECB must at once exclude these toxic assets and change the rules to tackle the climate emergency we live in.”

The Greenpeace protest followed the release of a substantial report on the Eurosystem collateral framework that shows a strong ECB bias towards fossil fuel and other carbon-intensive companies. Published by the New Economics Foundation, the study finds that high-carbon companies issue 59% of the corporate bonds that the ECB accepts as collateral. However, these companies contribute only 29% of EU Gross Value Added and only 24% to employment. It also offers a series of policy changes to align the ECB’s operations with the Paris agreement and EU climate goals.

“The ECB has recognized that it needs to tackle the carbon bias hardwired into monetary policy,” said report author Professor Daniela Gabor. “We show that it can easily green its collateral rules, by no longer lending to banks against dirty bond collateral, and by climate-aligning its lending terms.”

In total, the ECB has accepted approximately €300 billion in bonds from 61 fossil fuel companies as eligible collateral for lending purposes.

ECB president Christine Lagarde was critical of the paragliding protest at a press conference following the governing board meeting. “We are on the same page in many ways with some of the civil society organisations… but we cannot help but regret enormously the approach,” she said. “We don’t think that this is the necessary way to conduct a dialogue, but we will definitely continue this dialogue.” 

However, Lagarde was noncommittal about the prospects of the ECB greening its collateral framework and monetary policy, saying only that “we have to explore what we can do, and how efficient we can be in doing so”.

This page was last updated April 23, 2021

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