France to stress test banks, insurers' climate risks next year

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s financial regulator will subject banks and insurers to climate change stress tests next year, central bank governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Francois Villeroy de Galhau, governor of the Bank of France, attends a seminar on the sidelines of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Fukuoka, Japan, on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Investors are increasingly putting pressure on companies to make concrete steps to helping implement the U.N.-backed 2015 Paris Agreement to avert catastrophic global warming.

In France, banks and insurers - which have been required by law to disclose climate risks since 2016 - are also facing pressure from regulators.

“We will run climate stress tests for French banks and insurance next year,” Villeroy told a green finance conference in Paris, without giving details about what aspects of the institutions’ operations or investments would come under scrutiny.

“This will be very important progress in order to asses the kind of climate risks that are already nascent in banks and insurers’ balance sheets,” he added.

Villeroy, who also heads France’s ACPR financial regulator, said financial institutions would be stress tested against two or three climate change scenarios and that the results would be made public afterwards.

The Bank of England said in October it would stress test the financial system under various climate “pathways” and the European Central Bank said earlier this month it was also considering it.

In France, the financial sector is also under regulatory pressure to step up efforts to reduce its exposure to the coal industry.

“It is absolutely necessary that the risk of financing coal plants is quickly reduced on French banks’ balance sheets,” Villeroy said in an interview published on Friday newspaper La Croix.

The financial sector committed in July to disclosing plans to pull out of financing the coal industry by the middle of next year.

French bank Societe Generale SOGN.PA and French insurer AXA AXAF.PA said this week they would exit the coal sector by 2030 in OECD countries and by 2040 for the rest the world.

French bank BNP Paribas said last week that it would stop financing the thermal coal sector by 2030 in the European Union and 2040 worldwide.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Alison Williams