ECB senior manager to staff: Not good enough  

Climate Finance

ECB senior manager to staff: Not good enough  

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European Central Bank employees “don’t know how to spell the word ‘climate’ despite having top-class educations,” and senior management have had enough.

Free and open discussion about climate change ― and the role the bank should play in tackling it ― are no longer possible at the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank (ECB), according to high-level employees there who claim that Europe’s leading financial institution is purging staff critical of green policies from its ranks.

“If you voice criticism, you are quickly accused of being anti-climate. I have personally had that experience more than once,” Daniel Gros—director of the Institute for European Policy Making — told Politico

At the center of the swirl is central bank official and Dutch-born executive Frank Elderson, one of six members of the ECB’s executive board, who found himself the center of attention at the ordinarily staid institution after he was quoted publicly saying, “I don’t want these people anymore,” at a bank meeting in February. 

The 5,000-person organization, headquartered in Frankfurt, is the Eurozone’s equivalent of the Federal Bank and is charged with setting the currency union’s interest rate and monetary policy. It is one of the most important central banks internationally.

Double Dutch 

During his time on the ECB executive board, Elderson spearheaded the concept of fining banks that are slow to implement green policies. His zero-tolerance approach to climate policy discussions has also been labeled an affront to free expression by ECB staff, with many venting their anger on internal chat boards.

Reprogram or go away

Elderson’s management style has been described as “authoritarian” by employees. The central bank official is reported as saying, “Why would we want to hire people who we have to reprogram? Because they came from the best universities, but they still don’t know how to spell the word ‘climate.’”

“Why would we want to hire people who we have to reprogram? Because they came from the best universities, but they still don’t know how to spell the word ‘climate.’”

This week, the ECB itself circulated an official memo attempting to mollify staff discontent while simultaneously emphasizing the bank’s green credentials.

ECB President Christine Lagarde offered full-throated support for Elderson, saying, “I stand by my colleague, Frank, but equally, and probably more importantly, I and others value diversity in the institution that I lead. “Across the board, all the usual definitions of what diversity means, but also diversity of thinking, diversity of background, and I think that we will improve our work as a result of that.”

Lagarde feels the heat

The revelations have prompted calls from the European Parliament to investigate “ideological bias” within the ECB. They feed into a broader sense of dissatisfaction with head honcho Christine Lagarde; some 60% of staff have now declared no confidence in her management.

A recent survey showed that the ECB staff support the central bank’s increased efforts to fight global warming. However, discussions among staff following Elderson’s remarks show some are wary of turning the bank’s green revolution into a cultural one, with staff who don’t support the battle being purged. The ECB has argued it is legally obliged to contribute to tackling climate change, citing a formal secondary task requiring that it support the EU’s broader economic policies as long as they don’t conflict with keeping prices steady.  

Others in the European central banking community have warned Elderson and the ECB about trying to stamp out discussion and division, saying that being ideological and now allowing for debate is not tenable in the long run.

Featured photo: Frank Elderson. Source: @FrankElderson on X/Twitter

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