Climate change a key focus for the Central Bank

13 May 2021 Press Release

Central Bank of Ireland.

  • Central Bank to participate in US dollar-denominated green bond investment fund.
  • Behind the Data presents new green bond indicators, highlighting that, by sector, Irish-resident investment funds are the largest holders.
  • Survey of insurers finds that while the majority of firms have put management structures in place to oversee climate risks, over half don’t have a climate strategy, plan, or policy in place.

The Central Bank of Ireland today (13 May 2021) announced its participation in the US dollar-denominated green bond investment fund for central banks established by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

Investing in this green bond fund forms part of the Central Bank’s aim to further integrate climate change-related sustainable and responsible investment principles within its investment assets. The investment also aligns with the recent agreement on a common Eurosystem stance for climate change-related sustainable investments in non-monetary policy portfolios for Eurosystem central banks.

Further to this, the Central Bank has today also published two pieces of research that will help to inform its approach to climate-related risks.

The first of these is the latest entry in the Behind the Data (BtD) series, entitled “Green Bonds: A Snapshot of Global Issuance and Irish Securities Holdings”. This BtD bridges market data gaps by combining existing Central Bank data with commercial sources to examine the European green bond market and participation by Irish-resident entities. Although still relatively small, the green bond market has grown since 2018. Outstanding amounts of green bonds across the euro area increased from €72bn at end-2017 (0.4% of total euro-area debt securities) to €314bn at end-2020 (1.7% of total euro-area debt securities). Irish participation in this market, through issuance or holding, has grown in tandem. The BtD finds that Irish-resident investment funds hold the majority of green bonds in Ireland, with €12.6bn or 74% of total green bond holdings at end-2020. Credit institutions are the second largest holder, followed by insurance corporations.

Secondly, the Central Bank today published the results of a survey of insurance firms’ exposures to and preparedness for emerging risks, including climate risks. The results provide a number of key insights into how insurers are managing climate risks. Respondents indicated that physical and transition risks are the most material risks arising from climate change, while 11% of firms indicated that reputational risks were a concern. The findings also show that a majority (84%) of firms have management structures in place for oversight of climate risks. However, they also indicate a need for firms to take further steps to fully assess the impact of these risks on their business model, as 54% of respondents indicated they did not have a climate strategy, plan, or policy in place.  The results from the survey will inform the supervisory approach going forward.

Commenting, Deputy Governor Central Banking, Sharon Donnery said, “Today’s announcement reflects the Central Bank’s commitment to consider the challenges posed by climate change to the financial system, which forms an essential part of our mandate to ensure the financial system operates in the best interests of consumers and the economy.

“When considering macroeconomic and financial system challenges, climate change is one crucial aspect. In the Central Bank we have prioritised our work on climate change to ensure that we, and the firms we regulate, are prepared to meet these challenges. Central banks can contribute to creating an environment where climate-related financial risks can be more efficiently assessed and considered, but first we must have clear definitions of what sustainable products and investments are.

“The green bond market is key to funding the delivery of climate goals. The Central Bank’s participation in the BIS green bond investment fund is consistent with our focus on climate change, which has also seen us establish a dedicated Climate Change Unit and work with international partners as a member of the Network for Greening the Financial System. This group enables central banks and supervisors to share experiences and best practices.

“In the latest of our Behind the Data series we can see that green bond holdings continue to grow across Europe, reflecting wider awareness of the need for sustainable instruments to mitigate the potential economic and financial losses of climate change. This increased awareness is also evident in the survey results published today, which show that certain good practices are already being embedded in insurance firms in relation to climate risk. However, there is work to do in terms of establishing plans and strategies. Firms can expect that the Central Bank will become increasingly active and intrusive in its approach to the supervision of climate-change related risks going forward.”

Notes to Editor

Bonds eligible for the BIS green bond fund must have at least an A-rating and comply with the Green Bond Principles of the International Capital Market Association and/or the Climate Bonds Standard published by Climate Bonds Initiative. As defined by the International Capital Market Association, green bonds are “any type of bond instrument where the proceeds will be exclusively applied to finance or re-finance, in part or in full, new and/or existing eligible green projects”.

“Green Bonds: A Snapshot of Global Issuance and Irish Securities Holdings” uses Refinitiv’s active green bonds list, which considers a security to be green if it is labelled by the issuer as such and is issued based on a green bond framework established/adhered to by the issuer. The green bonds list was then cross-referenced against the Eurosystem’s Centralised Securities Database and the granular securities holdings database for Irish residents. The list of green bonds were taken as at April 2021 from the commercial data provider. Official statistical datasets do not yet have an internationally agreed framework for identifying green bonds. There is therefore a reliance on using commercial data sources. Work underway by the EU to bridge data gaps includes requirements for companies to both disclose their sustainability risks and impacts, and to make disclosures when selling sustainable financial products through the green finance taxonomies. Further issuance and formalisation of these market standards will provide all stakeholders with greater clarity in the future.

The survey “Understanding the Future of Insurance: Climate & Emerging Risk” was issued by the Central Bank in Q4 2020 to a representative sample of 93 insurance firms across all sectors (life, non-life, and reinsurance); approximately 95% coverage by total assets. It comprised 70 questions, encompassing both qualitative and quantitative elements, and was split into separate sections including Emerging risk, Climate risk and Cyber Underwriting risk.

31 March 2021: Governor’s Blog - Climate Change: Towards Action

16 May 2019: Deputy Governor Sharon Donnery - Risks and opportunities from climate change

5 February 2019: Economic Letter - "Climate Change and the Irish Financial System" (Lane)