French banks accused of financing the expansion of fossil fuels

Years and commitments pass, but the accusations of NGOs remain. According to a report published jointly on Wednesday by several NGOs, including Reclaim Finance and Friends of the Earth, the major French banks continue to pour tens of billions of euros into fossil fuels despite the multiplication of their commitments in favor of the climate.

“With 352 billion dollars in financing over the past six years, the Paris marketplace (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale, BPCE, Crédit Mutuel, La Banque Postale) represents the European Union’s first support for this industry, and closely follows that of London”, underlines the report entitled “Banking on climate chaos”.

However, support for fossil fuels from French banks, which joined the Net Zero Alliance under the auspices of the UN last year at COP 26, is beginning to decline. Last year, $47 billion was used to finance fossil fuel players, whether in the form of loans, bond issues or shares, compared to $88 billion in 2020.

Trajectory Questions

But for the NGOs, this trajectory is by no means obvious. “If French financial flows fall in 2021, there is no indication that this trend will be confirmed,” said Louis-Maxence Delaporte, campaign manager at Reclaim Finance. Indeed, as of January 2022, French banks have been involved in several large-scale financial operations for the benefit of BP, TotalEnergies and Saudi Aramco, leaders of the oil and gas expansion”.

Especially since the report shows that French banks are also continuing to finance the construction of new infrastructure linked to fossil fuels (oil platforms, gas terminals, pipelines, etc.), even if the pace has dropped in 2021. However, according to the Agency International Energy Organization (IEA), to meet humanity’s energy needs, it is no longer necessary to develop new projects.

On the side of the French Banking Federation (FBF), however, we denounce “fanciful” figures. “As evidenced by the final report of the AMF and the ACPR published at the end of last year, which shows a total exposure to conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons between 2015 and 2020 more than two times lower than those of the report of Reclaim finance and Friends of the Earth,” the organization points out.

Banks denounce “fanciful” figures

In addition, the FBF recalls that according to regulators, the banking sector’s exposure to oil and gas would show growth of 1% per year, when corporate loans increased by 52% over the same period. “There is no addiction to hydrocarbons on the part of French banks, and the weight of this financing is decreasing”, assures the body representing the sector.

Still, at the beginning of the month, the European Central Bank banged its fist on the table to denounce the greenwashing shown by too many financial players. While the institution is conducting a first climate stress test this year, it has assured that none of the 109 banks under its control is making enough effort to make its exposure to environmental risks public (disclosure). European financial institutions produce “a lot of background noise but nothing really substantial”, denounced the ECB.

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