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India's Banking Sector Fails to Address Climate Risks: Shocking Survey Reveals Alarming Gaps

Reserve Bank of India's Ground-breaking Report Exposes Banks' Inadequate Response to Climate Change


Sustainable finance refers to the practice of incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into financial decision-making processes. It involves considering the long-term impact of investments and financial activities on the environment, society, and overall sustainability. The goal of sustainable finance is to promote economic growth and development while ensuring the protection of the planet and the well-being of communities.

Sustainable finance encompasses various aspects, including responsible investing, green bonds, impact investing, and socially responsible banking. It involves directing financial resources towards projects and companies that prioritize sustainable practices, renewable energy, climate change mitigation and adaptation, social inclusivity, and ethical business conduct.

Climate risks, on the other hand, refer to the potential negative impacts of climate change on various aspects of the economy and society. These risks arise from the physical effects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns, as well as the transition to a low-carbon economy. Climate risks can affect industries, infrastructure, supply chains, financial institutions, and communities, leading to economic losses, disruptions, and social and environmental challenges.

Examples of climate risks include increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, supply chain disruptions due to extreme weather events, stranded assets in high-carbon industries, regulatory changes impacting carbon-intensive sectors, and reputational risks associated with environmental damage. Climate risks can have significant implications for businesses, investors, and financial institutions, as they can result in financial losses, reduced asset values, increased insurance costs, and the need for adaptation and resilience measures.

In the context of sustainable finance, addressing climate risks is crucial for ensuring the long-term viability of investments and financial activities. By considering and managing climate risks, financial institutions can contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy, reduce their exposure to potential losses, and support sustainable development. This involves incorporating climate risk assessments, disclosures, and mitigation strategies into investment decisions, risk management frameworks, and overall business strategies.


A recent survey conducted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sent shockwaves through the country's banking sector. The survey, which assessed the state of climate risk and sustainable finance in leading commercial banks, reveals alarming gaps in their preparedness and response to the growing climate crisis. With climate-related financial risks looming large, this groundbreaking report exposes the urgent need for India's banks to take immediate action to protect their business and the environment.

Board-Level Negligence and Responsibility

The report uncovers a shocking truth—board-level engagement on climate risk and sustainability is woefully inadequate. Astonishingly, in approximately one-third of the surveyed banks, responsibility for overseeing initiatives related to climate risk and sustainability remains unassigned. Furthermore, only a handful of banks have included climate risk and sustainability-related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in their top management's performance evaluation. This lack of engagement at the highest level poses a significant threat to India's financial stability.

Lack of Strategy and Risk Management

The survey highlights a lack of comprehensive strategies and risk management frameworks to tackle climate-related challenges. Most banks do not have a separate business unit or vertical dedicated to sustainability and ESG-related initiatives. Only a few banks have implemented strategies to embed ESG principles in their operations, scale up sustainable finance portfolios, and incorporate climate change risks into their risk management frameworks. This glaring oversight puts banks at risk of being ill-prepared for the inevitable economic and financial impacts of climate change.

Failure in Climate-Related Financial Disclosures

Shockingly, the majority of banks surveyed have not aligned their climate-related financial disclosures with internationally accepted frameworks. This lack of transparency and consistency in disclosing climate-related risks severely hampers investors', lenders', and insurance underwriters' ability to assess and price these risks accurately. The report calls for urgent improvements in disclosure practices to enhance comparability and ensure global standards are met.

Missed Opportunities for a Green Future

While climate risks loom large, the report highlights the missed opportunities for banks to transition to a low-carbon economy. Although most banks recognize the need to decrease exposure to high-carbon emitting businesses, their actions have been limited. Only a few banks have mobilized new capital for green lending and investment, and even fewer have set targets for incremental lending and investment in sustainable finance. The report emphasizes the urgent need for banks to seize these opportunities and contribute to India's commitment to a green future.


The RBI's eye-opening report on climate risks and sustainable finance in India's banking sector has laid bare the urgent need for action. With board-level negligence, inadequate strategies, and poor risk management, banks are leaving themselves vulnerable to the economic and financial fallout of climate change. The lack of climate-related financial disclosures further exacerbates the problem, hindering informed decision-making. The report serves as a wake-up call for banks to prioritize sustainability, embed climate risk management into their operations, and seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low-carbon economy. The time for action is now, as the consequences of inaction could be dire for both banks and the environment.

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