Examination of Witnesses

Part of Financial Services Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:11 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Fran Boait:

This idea is really in the capital requirements regulation, the idea being that financial institutions and banks lending towards high-carbon sectors would have to hold much more capital against that loan. I agree with the concern that they would maybe go ahead and do it anyway, but I think this is an important mechanism for pricing in climate risk, which has taken off in the past couple of years. There is obviously a recognition from the Financial Policy Committee of the Bank of England that climate risk is a huge risk to financial stability—both transition risk and physical risk—so we need to think about that.

Implementing a penalising factor requiring them to hold higher capital should have an important effect. We have seen a similar thing already done in the housing system, which has not completely solved the problem because it is systemic, but it is an important step forward in regulation and really signals to the market that the regulators do want to keep control of the situation. It is not going to solve everything—it is not going to completely stop lending into the fossil fuel industry—but it is quite an important step forward.

The key here is that there should also be a mechanism for scrutinising the CRR that we are onshoring. At the moment, it seems to say, “We are not going to say what we are going to do. We are going to let the financial regulators decide what it is,” which is very dangerous. As Pat McFadden pointed out, it was capital and the lack of banks needing to hold it that resulted in the crash, and it will be the lack of banks needing to hold capital against fossil fuel lending that will keep that carbon bubble, if you like, being pumped up. I am keen to continue the conversation about wider regulation and other things that need to be done alongside that in order to ensure a transition out of fossil fuels, and towards a green economy.