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EU eyes financial stress tests over climate risks - Dombrovskis

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By Reuters
EU eyes financial stress tests over climate risks - Dombrovskis
FILE PHOTO: European Commissioner-designate for An Economy that Works for People Valdis Dombrovskis of Latvia speaks as he attends his hearing before the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir   -   Copyright  Francois Lenoir(Reuters)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission is considering stress tests and measures to force financial firms to raise their buffers against climate-change risks, the EU financial services chief said on Wednesday.

The move would represent a major change in the bloc’s climate policy which has so far focused on encouraging firms to adopt greener policies voluntarily.

Valdis Dombrovskis said the European Union executive commission will explore ways to improve financial firms’ management of climate and environmental risks and increase their defences against natural disasters and other possible financial losses caused by climate change.

“That will mean assessing whether we need to make any regulatory changes to ensure better reporting and monitoring of climate-related risks,” Dombrovskis said.

He added that the new commission, which is expected to take office in December, will also look into ways “to integrate sustainability risks into financial stability monitoring and supervision mechanisms, like stress testing and scenario analysis.”

This higher scrutiny could force insurers and other financial firms to increase their buffers against climate risks.

The move would be part of a wider strategy to help the transition to a greener economy.

New EU rules on disclosing the climate impact of asset managers’ investing strategies have been recently agreed and will kick in from 2021.

EU standards on what make a responsible investment and a green bond are under negotiation, and the bloc is considering phasing out funding of fossil fuel projects by its top financial arm, the European Investment Bank.

Dombrovskis, who has been the EU finance chief for the past five years and has had his mandate renewed, said the commission would also explore standards and labels for green mortgages and loans to help owners upgrade their houses.

Buildings are responsible for a big chunk of carbon emissions, with three-quarters of them in the 28-country European Union being energy inefficient, according to EU data.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio ; Editing by Catherine Evans)