European banks accused of supporting coal polluters
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European banks have helped support some of the continent’s biggest polluters with billions of euros in loans despite their own public policies, according to a new study.
Since a 2018 historical report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that internationally agreed Paris targets would be largely missed, UniCredit, BNP Paribas, Barclays and Societe Generale loaned € 7.9 billion to the eight most emitting coal consumers, according to the study.
In some cases, lenders have committed funds after making a public commitment to pull out of the coal industry, as data compiled by environmental lobby group Europe Beyond Coal shows.
The conclusions come at a delicate time for the banks, which are in the face of pressure on their role in supporting the fossil fuel industry as activists move from shareholders to lenders.
“More than a year after UN climatologists sounded the alarm on the climate crisis and the need for Europe to get rid of coal by 2030, European banks continue to fund the European coal industry struggling to the tune of billions, which is inexcusable. said Jeanne Martin, senior campaign manager at ShareAction, a partner of Europe Beyond Coal.
“It appears that European banks are falling on the first hurdle to climate action – by phasing out funding for coal. Banks cannot afford to waste precious time debating the how, what and why of the end of the coal age when there are so many issues at stake, including financial and environmental stability.
Europe Beyond Coal found that eight companies produced more than 50% of coal-related carbon dioxide emissions in the EU last year: RWE and Uniper from Germany, PGE from Poland, EPH and CEZ Group from the Czech Republic , Enel from Italy, Endesa from Spain and Fortum from Finland.
UniCredit, Italy’s largest lender, was the most exposed to the eight groups, providing € 2.8 billion in loans and guarantees between October 2018 and December 2019. In November 2019, the bank announced it would cease to lend to thermal coal projects by 2023, but subsequently accepted loans with EPH and Enel.
BNP made the second commitment, lending and subscribing 2.1 billion euros. France’s largest asset lender said the transactions predate its announcement this month that it will reduce its thermal coal exposure in the EU by 2030.
“In accordance with its policy of producing electricity from coal, BNP Paribas will no longer finance players who are developing additional coal capacities or those who do not have a coal phase-out plan on the dates indicated,” the company said. .
Europe Beyond Coal has identified 1.7 billion euros in loans from Barclays, faced with shareholder pressure at the start of the year for its role in financing the fossil fuel industry, to five of the eight coal companies. The bank said the transactions predate its current position.
“These claims are outdated and based on flawed assumptions,” Barclays said. “We are committed to reducing all funding for thermal coal in line with the Paris targets and will not support the funding of projects for the development of new thermal coal mines, nor the construction or expansion of coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world. . “
SocGen has granted 1.3 billion euros in loans to coal companies, a handful of which after pledging last July to exit the thermal coal sector by 2030. The Parisian bank has since updated its policy exclusion on thermal coal.
UniCredit and SocGen did not immediately respond to requests for comment.