European Central Bank to monitor banks’ climate and crypto strategies

The European Union is enhancing the European Central Bank’s role to oversee climate risks and digital assets in the banking sector.

This move comes with the expanding scope of risks facing the banking sector, notably those associated with climate change and the burgeoning field of digital assets.

Under the new mandate, the ECB’s responsibilities will now encompass overseeing banks’ transition strategies towards a net-zero carbon economy spanning the next three decades. This development places the ECB at the forefront of supervising how banks prepare and adapt to environmental changes, which is increasingly seen as critical given the potential financial risks of climate change.

Moreover, the ECB’s jurisdiction is extended to include the supervision of bank-owned crypto asset services. This change reflects the growing importance of digital assets like Bitcoin (BTC) in the financial landscape and the need for robust regulatory frameworks to manage associated risks, such as money laundering.

This expansion of powers is expected to bring together the approach of European banking regulators towards climate-related issues. Previously, there was tension over how aggressively the ECB should enforce climate-related policies, with some board members cautious about overstepping the institution’s mandate.

The reform also empowers the ECB to oversee operational leasing businesses owned by banks. While not traditionally at the center of regulatory focus, these businesses present unique challenges, as evidenced by issues like the IT integration at Societe Generale SA’s LeasePlan.

Notably, the EU’s decision to strengthen the ECB’s role comes amid a broader context of regulatory adjustments. For instance, there has been a scaling back of international standards for bank capital, initially drafted in response to the 2008 financial crisis. Additionally, the reforms didn’t fully meet the ECB’s expectations regarding the vetting processes for senior bank leadership.

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