Frank Elderson: When you need change to preserve continuity - climate emergency and the role of law

Speech by Mr Frank Elderson, Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, at the ECB Legal Conference 2021, Frankfurt am Main, 25 November 2021.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
30 November 2021

It is with great pleasure that I would like to welcome you all to this year's ECB legal conference. Our annual legal conferences have always focused on the most pertinent topics in the field, bringing together the most distinguished legal experts and academics. Today's event is no different.

Being a trained lawyer myself, I am well aware of the topicality of the issues that will be discussed here today and tomorrow from a legal point of view. However, their relevance goes far beyond law: these topics clearly have a wider impact on society.

Later, I will introduce the speakers of today's first panel, which will focus on the future of legal pluralism and the dialogue between courts. First, though, I would like to use this opportunity to share my thoughts on a topic close to my heart, where the role of courts has proven crucial and where the dialogue and cooperation among courts is intensifying. This conference deals with continuity and change, so I have decided to focus on the change that is going to be the single defining issue for humankind in this generation: climate change. In particular I am going to talk about a specific aspect of the relationship between climate change and the legal system: climate change litigation. I would like to share some of my thoughts on how climate-related human rights – which I will refer to as climate rights – may be seen as branches stemming from the tree of fundamental rights, and how the community of lawyers has specific responsibilities to uphold these rights. Against this background I would then like to consider the role of courts and highlight their importance in the European context in general and for the ECB in particular.