Oct 8, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The Fed's emerging climate oversight

Lael Brainard speaks at a conference
Lael Brainard. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fed governor Lael Brainard is filling in more blanks about how the central bank could weigh and limit financial institutions' exposure to climate risk.

Driving the news: "I anticipate it will be helpful to provide supervisory guidance for large banking institutions in their efforts to appropriately measure, monitor, and manage material climate-related risks," she said in a speech Thursday.

  • Brainard also said the Fed is developing "scenario analysis" to model financial risks and "assess the resilience of individual financial institutions and the financial system to these risks."

Why it matters: The NYT calls the speech the "clearest signal yet" that the Fed will seriously weigh big banks' vulnerabilities. Brainard's influence may grow too.

  • Brainard is reportedly in the running to become Fed's vice chair for supervision. Randal Quarles' term ends soon.
  • Her remarks "go beyond" Quarles' positions on climate, Bloomberg reports.
  • She's also a potential candidate for Fed chair if Biden dumps Jerome Powell.

Yes, but: The speech — citing "novel combinations" of risks — is clear-eyed about uncertainties of trying to game out physical and transition risks facing financial institutions.

  • "Although we should be humble about what the first generation of climate scenario analysis is likely to deliver, the challenges we face should not deter us from building the foundations now," Brainard said.
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