BoE to review climate impact of corporate bond-buying after COVID crisis

FILE PHOTO: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London
FILE PHOTO: A security officer stands outside the Bank of England in London, Britain, March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

July 1, 2020

LONDON (Reuters) – Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said the British central bank would look at introducing climate change considerations when deciding which corporate bonds it buys once the coronavirus crisis has eased.

The BoE has been targeted by climate change protesters who have been calling and emailing the central bank this week to demand a change in the way it helps companies survive the COVID-19 curbs.

“When the pressure on our resources abates, we will turn to important issues such as the benchmark for our corporate bond portfolio,” Bailey said in a statement on Wednesday.

The BoE has a 20 billion-pound corporate debt purchase target as part of its expanded bond-buying programme to help shield Britain’s economy.

Bailey said the crisis had not changed the BoE’s commitment to combating climate change.

In March, shortly before the coronavirus pandemic escalated, he said there was a strong argument for changing the way the BoE bought corporate bonds based on climate concerns.

But in his statement on Wednesday, Bailey said “hard decisions” had to be taken when the central bank rushed out emergency measures to counter the COVID-19 lockdown shortly after he made those comments.

A lending programme for companies run by the BoE – which is separate to its corporate bond-buying – did not incorporate a test based on climate considerations.

“This was deliberate, because in such a grave emergency affecting this country we have focused on the immediate priority of supporting the jobs and livelihoods of the people of this country,” Bailey said.

The BoE has so far lent nearly 20 billion pounds under its COVID Corporate Financing Facility.

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Nick Macfie)