Earlier today Christine Lagarde, the President of the European Central Bank, held a press conference to report back on the discussions – and decisions – of the meeting of the Bank’s Governing Council.

And what a disappointment it was.

When she took office last year, President Lagarde worked hard to position herself as a leader worthy of the climate crisis era. She launched the ECB’s strategic review and made it clear that the Bank had a responsibility to support a green, sustainable transition of the European economy.

Where are those promises now, when the ECB is pumping incomprehensibly huge amounts of money into the economy, to help Europe reboot and recover from the crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic?

Mentions of climate change, a green and just recovery, or of a Green New Deal were nowhere to be found in Ms Lagarde’s presentation earlier today. 

The President chose to be silent and ignore climate science, the 115,000 thousand people who have signed a petition calling on her to stop funding climate criminals, and the thousands of voices raised using social media to ask her to show leadership. In doing so, she and her fellow bank governors are shirking their historic responsibility to lead Europe out of the post-pandemic economic crisis into a cleaner, fairer, safer future.

Let’s look at some numbers:

  • €1,350 billion – the total value of the pandemic emergency purchase programme – the money the ECB is creating and injecting into the European economy, to provide nations and businesses with much-needed cash, meant to help all of us recover from the crisis.
  • €7.6 billion – the staggering amount of money that has already gone to coal, oil and gas companies since the ECB launched its Covid-related measures in March.
  • 38 – this is how many fossil fuel companies, among them climate criminals like Shell, Total and Fortum, have received financial support from the ECB.
  • 115,509 – so far, this is how many people across Europe have signed an emergency petition by SumOfUs, 350.org and Reclaim Finance, asking President Lagarde to stop funding climate criminals and instead direct the ECB money into green cities, sustainable and clean energy, and public services, in line with the real green new deal we need, and the requirements of climate science.
  • 45 – this many organisations and groups from across Europe have signed an open letter directed at Ms Lagarde, calling on her to ensure than the ECB will fund a just recovery, not polluters.
  • Hundreds! – comments and messages left by people for President Lagarde on her Facebook page, calling for her leadership and for an end to fossil finance.
  • Zero – mentions of the Bank’s climate responsibilities in President Lagarde’s speech.

To quote a reaction published by Reclaim Finance, SumOfUs and 350.org, “Today, the [ECB] Governing Council failed to integrate climate into both the “business as usual” monetary policy and the crisis response. Even worse, they committed to finance big polluters and fossil fuel companies without any regard for European climate objectives”.

So, to Ms Lagarde and the governors of all Europe’s central banks, here’s another message for you from an ever growing, angrier and more determined movement for a just recovery, in Europe and worldwide:

We will keep calling out your hypocrisy, and we’ll keep fighting for the just recovery and the safer future that people and our planet need. You can choose to go down in history as the leaders who rose to this historic challenge – or as ones who smiled as you added fuel to the fires of the climate crisis. The choice is yours. We hope you make the right one.

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