London, 23rd May 2022
The Bank of England has published the results of its climate ‘stress tests’, which assess the resilience of UK banks to different climate scenarios.
The Bank of England’s stress tests assess how banks and insurers can cope with severe economic scenarios. The 2021 Climate Biennial Exploratory Scenario (CBES) explores the resilience of the UK financial system to the physical and transition risks associated with different climate pathways.
The results suggest that participating banks face an extra £110bn of losses (around £225bn in total) in a ‘Late Action’ scenario where the net zero transition is delayed by a decade and global warming rises to 1.8C by 2050. The Bank projects that total losses for the financial sector would reach nearly £350 billion in a severe physical risk scenario where no additional action is taken.
The Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), which is responsible for regulating and supervising around 1,500 financial institutions including banks and insurance companies, hinted in October 2021 that it was prepared to adjust the amount of capital banks hold to reflect climate risk to address the “financial consequences” of climate change. The PRA also stated last month that from 2022, it will switch from ‘assessing’ climate-related risks to ‘actively supervising’ against them.
David Barmes, Senior Economist at Positive Money, commented:
“Today’s stress test results confirm what we already knew, that delay to climate action poses severe costs to the economy. Estimates suggest that financial markets are aligned with 3C of warming, so the Bank of England’s prediction that banks should be able to survive temperatures peaking at 1.8C offers little comfort.
“With dire warnings from the International Energy Agency and IPCC against all new fossil fuel expansion, British banks are clearly out of step with any credible pathway to net zero, pouring £275 billion into fossil fuels since 2016.
“The government and Bank of England must act fast to align the financial system with net zero. Outright restrictions on lending to new fossil fuel projects must now be on the table. At the very least, higher capital charges for unsustainable investments would force banks to cover their own losses when loans go bad, instead of falling back on the public purse.”
- Bank of England, Climate Biennial Exploratory Scenario (BES) exercise on financial risks from climate change results, 24th May 2022: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/stress-testing/2022/results-of-the-2021-climate-biennial-exploratory-scenario
- Positive Money press release, ‘Bank of England moves closer to climate capital rules’, 28th October 2021: https://positivemoney.org/2021/10/bank-of-england-moves-closer-to-climate-capital-rules/
- Bank of England, key elements of the 2021 Biennial Exploratory Scenario: Financial risks from climate change, 8 June 2021: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/news/2021/june/key-elements-of-the-2021-biennial-exploratory-scenario-financial-risks-from-climate-change
- The Bank of England’s most recent climate-related financial disclosure suggests that the UK’s corporate bond market is aligned with 3C, 17 June 2021: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/prudential-regulation/publication/2021/june/climate-related-financial-disclosure-2020-21
- Positive Money is a research and campaign organisation working towards a money and banking system which supports a fair, democratic and sustainable economy. Set up in the aftermath of the financial crisis, we are a not-for-profit company funded by charitable trusts and foundations, as well as small donations from its network of over 65,000 supporters. www.positivemoney.org.uk
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