Low-carbon Transitions and Systemic Financial Risk

The transition to a low-carbon economy has been cited by policymakers as a potential driver of systemic risk that could lead to financial instability and negative macroeconomic outcomes. Most notably, Mark Carney’s ‘Tragedy of the Horizons’ speech warned of the potential of a transition-driven ‘Minsky moment’ whereby a disorderly process leads to a sudden collapse in asset prices.

We identify the channels through which a transition shock could lead to a systemic disruption. These include the downward repricing of carbon-intensive (or green) assets and a reduction in emissions-intensive production. We outline the approaches developed by existing studies to assess systemic risk, including the tracking of transition risk indicators such as bank exposure to emissions-intensive sectors, stress-testing frameworks, and network modelling approaches.

There is still much uncertainty on how to best measure the level of systemic risk posed by the transition, and therefore the size of this risk. Paradoxically, the realisation of systemic risks is more likely when the source of risk is not well understood. It is therefore important to consider the possible channels and work on their potential implications.