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Stop the ECB subsidising climate disaster, NGOs demand

70 European civil society organisations including Friends of the Earth and Corporate Europe Observatory call on the ECB to stop channeling more quantitative easing money towards polluting multinational corporations.

The civil society statement follows the revelation that the European Central Bank (ECB) has been pouring billions of euros into fossil fuel companies as part of its Corporate Sector Purchasing Programme (CSPP).

This programme is a specific section of the scheme more commonly known as ‘quantitative easing’ whereby the ECB delegates the purchase of corporate bonds to member states’ central banks in order to stimulate the Eurozone economy.

Under this CSPP programme, the ECB is directly purchasing debt instruments from the largest european multinational corporations, sometimes even under private placement. The QE for People campaign promptly criticized the corporate bond purchases by the ECB when this programme started in June 2016.

In our view, this "QE for corporations" programme stretches the whole logic of QE to its worse. Under this programme, the ECB is de facto subsidizing corporations which already have access to very cheap financing conditions, all of this in the name of highly questionable economic stimulus outcomes. By doing so, the ECB is unnecessarily sending a very wrong signal to European citizens and fuelling popular perception that EU institutions are subjected to the influence of private business interests.

Worse, the programme's implications contradicts with the EU’s commitment, as part of the Paris Agreement, to align its financial flows with low-carbon development, as the programme has led the ECB to frequently purchase bonds from oil and gas companies like Shell, Total and REPSOL, as Corporate Europe Observatory revealed last year.

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70 NGOs join our call to question QE for corporations

Following up on that, today 70 NGOs from 19 EU countries have joined us in criticizing the ECB's support for large European corporations through QE by co-signing a joint statement (see below) which we co-ordinated together with Friends of the Earth Europe and Corporate Europe Observatory.

The signatories include many green NGOs the Veblen Institute, Fondation Nicolas Hulot, anti-austerity groups such as several branches of ATTAC, CADTM, Transnational Institute, and several trade unions (full list below).

The statement calls on the ECB to stop subsidizing fossil fuel through QE and calls for greater transparency in disclosing the details of the ECB's purchases. “It is scandalous that just six months after the Paris Agreement and in the middle of a climate crisis the European Central Bank launched a programme that has been pumping public money into fossil fuel corporations." declared Friends of the Earth's Colin Roche.

The ECB still refuses to release any information on the individual value of its bond purchases and rejects calls for the publication of corporate beneficiaries’ names. 

Corporate Europe Observatory’s financial policy researcher Kenneth Haar condemned this obscurity: The ECB’s quantitative easing scheme is providing cash injections for polluters and it does so in the dark. What a disgraceful way to use public money. At the end of the day, the ECB is a public bank and should be accountable to Europe’s citizens and decision makers. It has to stop disguising its support for climate criminals and publish the exact value of each bond purchase.”

So far, over €67 billion (source: ECB website) have been invested in Europe’s biggest corporations as part of the quantitative easing programme. At the same time, investment needs for the EU’s climate transition are far from being met and citizens continue to face austerity.

Quantitative Easing for People’s Stan Jourdan added: "If the mainstream financial sector is not yet ready to sufficiently fund EU climate action, central banks must play a bigger role.  “The ECB should channel part of its quantitative easing investments into environmentally sustainable sectors and help create employment in future-proof green industries. So far, the bank has been doing the exact opposite."

We are grateful that so many organisations joined our call. This constitute a strong milestone in the process of questioning the role of central banks and monetary policy in the need to transition our economy towards a more environmental-friendly model. 

 

The statement: Stop the ECB subsidising climate disaster


Economic policy should contribute to the fight against social injustice and climate change, not support polluters and speculators.

Since June 2016, the European Central Bank (ECB) has injected around 67 billion euro into the Eurozone economy to fund corporate bond purchases. This is part of a money creation programme known as ‘quantitative easing’, a scheme aimed at stimulating the Eurozone economy through the purchase of corporate bonds. However, in the name of growth, this programme supports companies at the heart of the climate crisis.

Among the list of corporations favoured by the ECB are some from the dirtiest industries on the planet. The bank has not revealed how much has been spent on the bonds of individual firms. But oil and gas companies, such as Shell, Total and Repsol, appear to have received particular support, along with car makers and highway firms. Shell bonds have, for example, been bought eleven times since the inception of the programme. And while carbon industry bond purchases make up as much as 68 per cent of some national central bank investments within the scheme, there are very few renewable energy investments visible across the lists of bond purchases. 

In other words, only six months after European countries signed the Paris Agreement, the ECB began to pour cheap money into the pockets of huge companies which can already comfortably access capital markets, and whose businesses are - by their nature - destructive to the climate and therefore the lives and livelihoods of people worldwide. 

Whatever the ECB’s logic in selecting these bonds, such a programme cannot be justified in the context of the ongoing climate emergency. All institutions of the European Union and all of its member states have a responsibility to fight climate change. Investing billions of euros in carbon-intensive industries clearly works against the goal of halting disastrous climate change. 

There is little evidence to show that the ongoing corporate purchases by the ECB do anything other than provide cheaper money for corporations. Apparently, the money simply ends up as additional income for a few wealthy shareholders, while job-creating small and medium-sized companies are being sidelined.  Properly designed economic policies, in contrast, could help to support socially and environmentally-beneficial projects, which the traditional banking sector has been unwilling to invest in.

It is time to change that.

As a first step, we demand transparency. It is unacceptable that the ECB is not prepared to reveal its purchases to the public. The public has a right to know which companies benefit from the ECB programme and, in particular, how much money gets spent on bonds of individual companies. 

Secondly, we demand a change of course. Stop funding fossil fuels. There needs to be full alignment of the EU’s bond purchasing strategy and its social and environmental objectives, which include meeting the Paris climate targets.

Thirdly, we are asking decision makers in Europe to develop an alternative: we need a strategy under democratic control, that steers investments towards job-creating industries and sets us on the right course to combat the climate crisis.

 

Signatories:

350.org (EU/global)

Action from Ireland (Ireland)

ActionAid (UK)

Alternativa antimilitarista de Las Palmas (Spain)

Ander Europa (the Netherlands, Belgium)

Asociacion Canaria de economia alternative (Spain)

ATTAC España (Spain)

ATTAC France (France)

ATTAC Ireland (Ireland)

ATTAC Norge (Norway)

ATTAC Osterreich (Austria)

Bankwatch (EU)

Bio Consom'acteurs (France)

Bond Beter Leef Milieu (Belgium)

CADTM (EU)

ChristianAid (UK)

CIDSE (EU)

Climate Action Network, CAN (EU)

Collectif des Tables Rondes Citoyennes (France)

Collectif Roosevelt (France)

Confederacion Intersindical (Spain)

Corporate Europe Observatory (EU)

Counter-Balance (EU)

Debt Resistance UK (UK)

Ecologistas en Accion (Spain)

End Ecocide on Earth (EU-global)

Engineers without Borders (Spain)

ENTREPUEBLOS/ENTREPOBLES/ENTREPOBOS/HERRIARTE (Spain)

EPSU, European Federation of Public Service Unions (EU)

European Alternatives (EU)

Fairfin (Belgium)

Focus Association for Sustainable Development (Slovenia)

Fondation Nicolas Hulot (France)

Friends of the Earth Cyprus (Cyprus)

Friends of the Earth Europe

Friends of the Earth Finland (Finland)

Fundacja "Rozwój TAK - Odkrywki NIE" (Poland)

Global 2000 - Friends of the Earth Austria (Austria)

Global Forest Coalition (EU-global)

Global Witness (UK)

Health and Environment Alliance (EU)

Institut Veblen (France)

International Institute for Law and the Environment, IIDMA (EU)

La Confederacion General del Trabajo de España (Spain)

Leave it in the Ground Initiative (EU)

Les Économistes Atterrés (France)

Les jours heureux (France)

Miljöförbundet Jordens Vänner (Sweden)

Monetative (Germany)

Mouvement Écologique (Luxembourg)

NOAH - Friends of the Earth Denmark (Denmark)

Notre affaire à tous (France)

Parroquia do Cristo da Victoria (Spain)

Plataforma Cantabria por lo Público y Contra los Recortes (Spain)

Plataforma Rural (Spain)

QE for People (EU)

Re Common (Italy)

REDESSCAN: Red canaria en defensa de los servicios sociales (Spain)

ReINFORM (the Netherlands, Greece)

Réseau international des Dialogues en humanité; (France)

SOMO (the Netherlands)

Stamp Out Poverty (UK)

System Change - Not Climate Change (Austria)

transform! Europe (EU)

Transnational Institute (EU/global)

Transport & Environment (EU)

Urgewald (Germany)

World Future Council

Young Friends of the Earth Scotland (Scotland)

ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System (Portugal)


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