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NGOs call on the European Central Bank to stop funding fossil fuels

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NGOs 350.org, SumOfUs, Reclaim Finance as well as Greenpeace have written to the European Central Bank (ECB) to demand that it stops supporting fossil fuel companies as part of its developing response to COVID-19. The letter comes three weeks ahead of the ECB governing council meeting of 10 December,  where governors are expected to ramp up the Bank’s economic stimulus measures.

350.org campaigner Nick Bryer said: “It’s ridiculous that the European Central Bank talks about tackling the climate crisis, while supporting some of the world’s worst polluters. With its existing €1.47 trillion COVID-related asset purchase programme, the Bank may have already pumped up to €220 billion into high-carbon emitters like Shell and Total. And on the 10th of December the bank might double-down and channel billions more euros towards fossil fuel companies - unless they take deliberate steps to exclude them”

ECB President Christine Lagarde (pictured) has promised to “explore every avenue” in the fight against climate change, including considering using the Bank’s €2.8tn asset purchase schemes to pursue green objectives. Yet, in December, the central bank is likely to opt for additional asset purchases with no green strings attached.

Reclaim Finance campaigner Paul Schreiber said: “Next month’s meeting will demonstrate whether or not the ECB is truly committed to integrating climate into its operation. The central bank cannot be credible if it continues to support fossil fuel companies, that have no intention to respect the Paris-Agreement and aggressively plan to develop new fossil fuel projects.”

The open letter - also signed by Positive Money Europe, New Economics Foundation, Oil Change International and others - calls for the ECB to take two immediate steps in line with its commitments and while waiting for the results of its strategy review:

1) Exclude fossil fuel companies from corporate asset purchases, and

2) Pilot a green targeted long-term refinancing operations (TLTRO) programme to incentivize private banks to lend more money for green investments.

SumOfUs campaigner Leyla Larbi said: “Funding a “green” recovery and also funding the most climate-destructive companies around makes no sense at all. The European Commission’s Green Deal action plan is clearly being undermined by its own Central Bank, and that’s why more than 166,000 people across Europe are petitioning the ECB to change. The ECB can end all support to fossil fuel companies and support green investments with a green TLTRO programme.”

The letter echoes the voice of more than 160,000 people that signed a petition calling on the ECB to stop supporting polluters through its monetary policy.

  • The open letter is available here.
  • Reclaim Finance’s report on the ECB’s ongoing support to the fossil fuel industry available here. A specific brief on gas expansion is available here.
  • NEF and Greenpeace’s report on the ECB’s asset purchases and their carbon bias is available here.
  • Positive Money Europe and the Sustainable Finance Lab’s report on Green TLTRO is available here.
  • Last month the KoalaKollektiv, a Frankfurt-based climate justice group, held a protest outside the ECB. Photos and videos are available here.

coronavirus

Italy reports 26,323 new coronavirus cases, 686 deaths

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Italy reported 686 COVID-19-related deaths on Saturday (28 November), against 827 the day before, and 26,323 new infections, down from 28,352 on Friday (27 November), the health ministry said, writes .

There were 225,940 swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 222,803.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 54,363 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain. It has also registered 1.564 million cases.

While Italy’s daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding.

The health ministry said on Friday it would ease anti-COVID-19 restrictions in five regions as of 29 November, including in the country’s richest and most populous region, Lombardy.

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German minister says partial lockdown could last until Spring 2021

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Germany’s partial lockdown measures could be extended until early spring if infections are not brought under control, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday (28 November), writes Caroline Copley.

Altmaier told Die Welt it was not possible to give the all-clear while there were incidences of more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants in large parts of Germany.

“We have three to four long winter months ahead of us,” he was quoted as saying. “It is possible that the restrictions will remain in place in the first months of 2021.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Wednesday to extend and tighten measures against the coronavirus until at least 20 December.

Germany imposed a “lockdown light” in early November, which closed bars and restaurants but allowed schools and shops to stay open. The measures have stopped the exponential growth of cases but infections have stabilised at a high level.

There were 21,695 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday, bringing total cases since the pandemic began to 1,028,089.

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Commission approves German scheme to compensate accommodation providers in the field of child and youth education for damages suffered due to the coronavirus outbreak

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The European Commission approved, under EU state aid rules, a German scheme to compensate accommodation providers for child and youth education for the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants. The scheme will compensate up to 60% of the loss of revenues incurred by eligible beneficiaries in the period between the beginning of the lockdown (which started on different dates across the regional states) and 31 July 2020 when their accommodation facilities had to be closed due to the restrictive measures implemented in Germany.

When calculating the loss of revenue, any reductions in costs resulting from income generated during the lockdown and any possible financial aid granted or actually paid out by the state (and in particular granted under scheme SA.58464) or third parties to cope with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak will be deducted. At the central government level, facilities eligible to apply will have at their disposal a budget of up to €75 million.

However, these funds are not earmarked exclusively for this scheme. In addition, regional authorities (at Länder or local level) may also make use of this scheme from the local budgets. In any event, the scheme ensures that the same eligible costs cannot be compensated twice by different administrative levels. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which enables the Commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or specific sectors for the damages caused by exceptional occurrences, such as the coronavirus outbreak.

The Commission found that the German scheme will compensate damages that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damages. The Commission therefore concluded that the scheme is in line with EU state aid rules.

More information on actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59228 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website.

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