As if The Bank of England does not have enough on its plate – at first scaremongering Brexit and now doing its best to defend against its potential impact -a new report by research group Positive Money says the central bank must do more to combat climate change, including overt monetary financing of investment in a low-carbon economy.
As The Independent reports, the report argues that the bank’s mandate to secure financial stability “looks incoherent over time unless it considers the long-term viability of the economy”. That viability will be undermined unless the threat of climate change is tackled soon, the researchers say.
“The nature of climate change is such that either physical damage from weather or radical changes in technology and policy will occur in some combination, so action is needed now,” the report says.
In an interesting twist, the report begins by blaming The Bank of England (and other profiligate central banks) for printing too much money and worsening global climate change.
The bank’s record on climate change and says its programme of, in effect, printing billions of pounds to prop up the economy has disproportionately helped carbon-intensive companies that are choking the planet.
Under quantitative easing (QE), the bank has bought billions of pounds of debt from companies and the government.
This is supposed to increase demand for debt, which in turn lowers interest rates. Cheaper borrowing means more borrowing which is supposed to be used to fund economic activity.
But the researchers argue that QE has been actively harmful to efforts to combat climate change because the bank’s own criteria have been skewed towards buying debt from high-carbon sectors like manufacturing and utilities.
It also argues that the purchase of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of government bonds (debt) via QE has poured cash into the financial system, pumping up prices of assets such as stocks, but has had little impact on the “real economy”.
Which is true.
But then Positive Money say more money-printing is needed to solve global climate change…
To have a genuinely powerful, positive impact central banks should instead instigate “green QE”, which prioritises buying sustainable investments, the report suggests. This would directly stimulate activity in green sectors which have the potential to grow rapidly
A recent attempt to map the chains of direct and indirect financial exposure across the economy finds that feedback loops can make the effect of policy changes substantial.
Positive Money also calls for the Bank to look into effectively print money for the government to spend directly on green projects.
This method, known as “overt monetary financing”, is controversial but has been advocated in a variety of forms by respected figures including Lord Adair Turner, former head of the UK’s financial regulator.
Supporters argue that it simply dispenses with the artificial step of the government issuing debt to the markets in the form of bonds which are then bought up by the central bank.
The primary aspect of the BoE’s mandate is to maintain stable prices but it must also “support the economic policy of Her Majesty’s government”. That policy already includes sustainability as an aim.
Author of the report, Positive Money economist Rob Macquarie, concludes:
“The Bank of England’s mandate must be hardwired for sustainability and climate change.”
How long until The Fed is pressed to stop focusing on maintaining the S&P 500’s price change and instead buy Tesla’s direct from Musk and fund a solar panel of every new home… oh wait!