Flying in the face of the ECB – Greenpeace paraglides onto bank to protest fossil fuel funding

Two Greenpeace activists landed on the roof of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt and attached a banner to the press centre [Felix Schmitt / Greenpeace]

Two climate activists from Greenpeace paraglided onto the roof of the European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters on Wednesday (10 March) and hung a banner accusing the bank of funding polluters on the eve of its governing board meeting.

After flying over the Main river in Frankfurt, the two activists landed on the ECB press centre and unfurled a banner that demanded the bank “stop funding climate killers”.

Images Greenpeace posted on Twitter also show a third activist flying close to the building with a banner reading “act on climate now”. Greenpeace has said that a total of ten protestors were involved.

An ECB spokesperson confirmed the security breach and said that the police had been called.

The ECB has faced criticism in some quarters for not taking long term climate risk into account when it buys bonds and gives credit. It is now conducting a review of its strategy and this process included an in-depth analysis of how to respond to the climate crisis, said an ECB spokesperson.

Greenpeace say they want to keep the pressure on the bank ahead of the review.

“The ECB is stalling. Instead of quickly presenting a strategy for monetary policy to deal with the climate crisis, the responsible leaders remain vague. They are allowing climate-damaging companies in particular to benefit from the status quo of the ECB’s monetary policy,” said Mauricio Vargas, financial expert at Greenpeace Germany.

“Of course Lagarde is in favour of changing the course of the ECB, but she’s not alone. There will be others and they also have a significant vote there, especially the German governor of the Deutsche Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann. He’s still opposing a change in the European Central Bank,” he added.

The protest followed a report which argued that the ECB’s lending rules, particularly its collateral requirements, favoured carbon intensive industries and perpetuated a market failure to properly price polluting assets.

It showed that the rules governing which assets private banks can use as collateral favour fossil fuel companies and that because of this the ECB has backed assets worth some €300 billion, benefiting over 60 companies, including Shell, Total, Eni, OMV and Repsol.

The report, “Greening the Eurosystem Collateral Framework” was published by the New Economics Foundation, SOAS University of London, the University of the West of England, the University of Greenwich and Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.

“Carbon bias is rife at the European Central Bank. 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,” said Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan.

President of the ECB, Christine Lagarde, has previously said that climate change will be key to the review.

“Climate change affects all of our policy areas,” said Lagarde. “The climate change centre provides the structure we need to tackle the issue with the urgency and determination that it deserves.”

An ECB spokesperson said climate change was “one of the greatest challenges faced by mankind this century” and that the bank was “contributing to the response within its mandate as a central bank, acting in step with those responsible for climate policy”.

The bank has said it will set up a climate team and invest some of its own funds, totalling €20.8 billion and including capital paid by eurozone countries, reserves and provisions, into a green bond fund run by the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements.

Since she became president in 2019, Lagarde has made the environment a priority in the ECB’s policies, including climate considerations in its work as the eurozone’s banking watchdog and main financial institution.

The results of this review, initially expected at the end of 2020, have been postponed to the second half of 2021 because of the pandemic.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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