EU officials have threatened fines on banks that don’t take climate change seriously.
Anti-capitalist green protests met with an unlikely ally in Brussels today (1 February) – the head of the European Banking Authority.
EU financial regulators may not always see eye to eye with activists at Extinction Rebellion – but there was some sympathy for two protestors who stormed a conference stage to protest large banks’ environmental record.
“Barclays is the biggest investor in Europe in fossil fuels,” one of the protestors said to the panel which included Francesco Ceccato, Chief Executive Officer of Barclays Europe.
“GDP growth is not compatible with the green transition,” the protestor said, adding that “a billion people will die because of climate change.”
That intervention led to an unexpected reply from José Manuel Campa, who heads the Paris-based EU institution responsible for the bloc’s banks.
“The protestor points to a very important aspect, which is that we need to transition,” the EBA chair told Euronews. “The banks have a role to play.”
“I’m not surprised he says that banks have in their balance sheet fossil fuels, because we are producing fossil fuels,” Campa added, calling on lenders to issue credible and viable plans to switch to a zero-carbon world.
“It’s just a reflection of where we are as a society, we all need to do more about this, and faster,” Campa said.
Campa’s comments came after a study by the European Central Bank, responsible for directly supervising the eurozone’s largest lenders, found the financial sector’s books show a “staggering” misalignment with green objectives.
ECB supervisor Frank Elderson has previously threatened to sanction lenders who fail to pay attention to environmental concerns.
The protest, which called for nationalising sectors of the economy, took place on the same day as a diametrically opposed demonstration – by farmers whose tractors gridlocked Brussels calling for a relaxation of EU environmental rules.
A press release apparently sent by Extinction Rebellion, a loose collective of environmental activists, said the pro-green stunt was part of the Growth Kills initiative.
Barclays did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Euronews. According to the bank’s website, it’s committed to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, cutting finance to high-emitting sectors in line with the Paris agreement on climate change.