Frank Elderson: The European Climate Law and the European Central Bank

Keynote speech by Mr Frank Elderson, Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank and Vice-Chair of the Supervisory Board of the European Central Bank, at the Lustrum Symposium, organised by the Dutch Financial Law Association, Amsterdam, 1 December 2022. 

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

Central bank speech  | 
02 December 2022

I am honoured to speak at this 20th anniversary dinner, with so many distinguished lawyers around me. In this setting, I feel quite comfortable dwelling on legal issues for a while.

A topic close to my heart – apart from the law – is the ongoing climate and environmental crises. I am glad that we have long since moved on from the time when only scientists and activists were concerned with this topic. It is now high on policymakers' agendas, as we saw at the recent United Nations Conference of Parties (COP27) at Sharm el-Sheikh, at which – along with world leaders and a wide range of policymakers and interest groups – the ECB was also represented.

I was struck by one story in particular. The tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu is badly exposed to cyclones and rising sea levels. To the inhabitants of Vanuatu, climate change is a human rights issue. And, as Vanuatu's president, Nikenike Vurobaravu, stated, "we are measuring climate change not in degrees of Celsius or tonnes of carbon, but in human lives."

Vanuatu now plans to ask the UN General Assembly to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on the human rights implications of the climate crisis. That opinion could determine the rights of countries most exposed to climate change. It could also touch on the obligations of those most responsible for driving the climate crisis.