A top European Central Bank official has addressed criticism that the bank is doing too little to promote green finance, saying it was considering investing more of its funds in green bonds.

The ECB has come under attack from campaigners over its decision to use some of the funds set aside under its €2.5tn quantitative easing programme to buy bonds of companies that are responsible for polluting the environment.

Benoît Cœuré, a member of the ECB executive board, acknowledged that the bank had purchased debt of companies in emission-intensive sectors, such as manufacturing and utilities. However said the ECB already held hold close to 20 per cent of the eligible “green” corporate bond universe, with a value of €31bn.

Mr Cœuré also said the bank was considering investing more of its reserves in assets that would help green the environment. “Purchasing green bonds from a number of eligible issuers could be an option, as long as the markets are deep and liquid enough,” he said in Berlin on Thursday. “Work conducted under the first work stream — that is, the development of a clear and transparent taxonomy — will help accelerate progress on this front.”

Stan Jourdan, head of Positive Money Europe, a campaign group that has called for the ECB to do more to promote green finance, said: “Having ECB board members openly discussing this issue shows the debate has reached an unprecedented level of importance in the EU. We strongly appreciate his recognition of the role the ECB can and should play in accelerating a green transformation of the financial sector.”

Mr Jourdan added: “Given the severity and urgency of tackling climate change, we think all options should be on the table. Connecting the ECB’s asset purchase programme with private and public investment towards the energy transition is a promising way in which the ECB could both stimulate the economy and maintain price stability while providing a helping hand to the EU’s efforts to accelerate the shift towards a low-carbon economy.”

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