Although there is increasing support for the idea that central banks should actively contribute to the fight against climate change, monetary policymakers have no mandate to do so, and for good reason. Tackling climate change is – and must remain – the responsibility of elected governments and parliaments.
FRANKFURT – As an alarming new United Nations report shows, climate change is probably the biggest challenge of our time. But should central banks also be worrying about the issue? If so, what should they be doing about it?
Central-bank representatives who do decide to make public speeches about climate change cannot deny the scale and scope of the problem; to do so would be to risk their own credibility. But the same is true when central bankers feel obliged to discuss the distribution of income and wealth, rising crime rates, or any other newsworthy topic. The more that central banks’ communications strategy focuses on trying to make themselves “popular” in the public’s eyes, the greater the temptation to address topics outside their primary remit.
Beyond communicating with the public, the question, of course, is whether central banks should try to account for environmental considerations when shaping monetary policy. Obviously, climate change and corresponding government policies in response to it can have powerful effects on economic development. These consequences are reflected in all kinds of variables – growth, inflation, employment levels – that will in turn affect central-bank forecasts and influence monetary-policy decisions.
Likewise, natural disasters and other environmental events – actual or potential – can pose implicit risks to entire classes of financial assets. Regulators and supervisors charged with assessing risk and associated capital needs must take this environmental dimension into account. At a minimum, the high uncertainty stemming from these risks implies a huge challenge for assessing the stability of the financial system and corresponding macroprudential measures.
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