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French banks told to speed up response to climate change

Stock MarketsMay 04, 2021 06:56AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Facade of the Banque de France headquarters in Paris, France, March 12, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau 2/2

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) - French banks and insurers should speed up their response to climate change, France's banking regulator said on Tuesday, after publishing what it called the world's first climate-related stress test of banks.

Other financial watchdogs around the world will also be conducting similar tests on the finance industry to help to reduce the impact of climate change on economies. Banks and other finance companies will have to disclose to investors the impact of climate change on their balance sheets under proposed European Union rules.

The ACPR, the banking supervisory arm of the Bank of France, conducted a voluntary pilot test on nine banks and 15 insurers - accounting for nearly all their respective sectors - to measure resilience to common "scenarios" like a slow response to climate change.

It covered a 30-year period from 2020 to 2050, looking at risks from "transitioning" or moving from polluting to more climate-friendly assets and from physical risks like fires and floods.

The watchdog found that the companies' exposures to transition risks were "rather moderate", but the expected increase in claims and premiums for some insurance risks was particularly noticeable.

There are also uncertainties over how fast climate change will unfold and data gaps, the watchdog said.

"In the light of these results, banking institutions and insurers now need to step up their efforts to combat climate change by integrating the risks associated with climate change into their financial risk assessment process," Bank of France First Deputy Governor Denis Beau told reporters.

The results will have no impact on how much capital the financial firms must currently hold, and there will be no specific, follow up actions.

"The aim of the exercise was.. to stimulate thought, analysis and promote a better integration of climate risks into risk management at firms," Beau said.

The French Banking Federation, an industry body, said the results showed the resilience of French banks, with relatively modest exposures to sectors like mining, oil and agriculture.

The Bank of France is host to the secretariat for the Network for Greening the Financial System, a group of central banks creating best practice in regulating banking risks from climate change.

The ACPR said its pilot would help to inform the Bank of England's own climate stress test in June, and a test the European Central Bank will conduct in 2022.

The ACPR's own test will become a regular event, with the next one scheduled for 2023/2024.

French banks told to speed up response to climate change

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