Last weekend two of us from the BankTrack team participated at Ende Gelände, a mass civil disobedience action in Germany’s Rhineland at the RWE-owned Garzweiler open cast lignite mine, and joined with activists from across Europe and beyond. We set out to promote our Paris Pledge campaign aimed at getting the world’s banks to end their financing of the coal industry, and learned a whole lot more in the process.
Two weeks ago BankTrack launched its Paris Pledge campaign, aimed at getting the world’s banks to end their multi-billion dollar financing of the coal industry – and many thanks to all those people and organisations from around the world who have already supported the call (if you haven’t already, you can do so here).
This blog post is published jointly with Bankwatch.
Slovenia’s newly built Sostanj 6 power plant is expected to generate losses of around EUR 200 million over the next 3-4 years. This was the view put forward at a recent panel discussion in Zagreb by Blaz Kosorok, General Director of Holding Slovenske Elektrarne (HSE), Slovenia’s state-owned power generation company and the country’s largest company.
Given that Croatia’s Plomin C project shares some of Sostanj 6’s features – failure to really consider alternatives, a lack of transparency about costs, and failure to properly include the public in decision-making – could Croatia be about to repeat its neighbour’s mistakes? And how is the only major international financier involved in Plomin C to date – Crédit Agricole – viewing its own future in another looming Balkan coal power debacle?
It must have been a bewildering scene at the Paris headquarters of Crédit Agricole last Wednesday when the news came through that rival bank BNP Paribas would be joining other French multinationals such as EDF, Engie, Renault Nissan and Air France as official sponsors of the United Nations Climate Summit (COP21) to be held in the French capital at the end of the year.
A month ago BankTrack released an investor briefing warning prospective investors of the risks of investing in a USD 400 million bond offer by Singapore based Golden Agri-Resources (GAR). Although the bond seems to have sold well, the bond issuing at the end of April was followed swiftly by a number of developments in May which together have seen GAR’s sustainability risk skyrocket:
Today’s HSBC annual shareholders’ meeting in London has been dominated by the bank’s cutely timed announcement that it is considering whether or not to move its headquarters out of the UK. Here at BankTrack, and in light of other less high profile HSBC announcements of late, we’ve been wondering when the bank might see fit to announce an imminent departure from its substantial global coal finance investments – by our conservative estimates, HSBC provided just short of €8bn support to the coal sector in lending and underwriting over the period 2005-April 2014.
Just a couple of days ago we were bravo-ing BNP Paribas as it and fellow French banks Crédit Agricole and Société Générale confirmed they have ruled out financing for highly controversial coal mine projects in Australia’s Galilee Basin. Whether this shunning of major coal financing will be a watershed moment for the French banks remains to be seen. Along with our colleagues at Friends of the Earth France, who’ve set up a petition site for French bank customers to urge their banks to commit to end all coal sector financing by the end of this year, we’re certainly intent on keeping up the pressure following this big Gallic Galilee success.
News this week that the Norwegian Global Pension Fund (GPF), the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and one of the largest investors in the coal industry, divested from over 50 coal companies in 2014 has come with some unfortunate caveats attached.
While GPF’s ditching of a number of major companies involved in devastating mining practices – in particular the mountain-top removal exponents Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources – and notorious giants such as Coal India are very welcome and timely steps, these coal divestment advances were immediately compromised by the fund revealing the state of play with its other fossil fuel interests: in 2014 it increased its stake in major oil and gas companies to £20 billion.
ABN AMRO will not provide APRIL with new loans until the Indonesian pulp and paper company stops clearing rainforests and can prove that it is operating in a sustainable way. The bank has also called on APRIL to immediately stop the destruction of Indonesian rainforests. ABN AMRO communicated this decision to Greenpeace Netherlands last Friday, March 6th. At the same time it posted a declaration on its website on its dedication to nature conservation:
“ABN AMRO does not want to have anything to do with any transactions or activities that are in conflict with nature conservation. The bank does not finance any companies that are involved in illegal logging or trading wood that has been illegally cut down. Nor does it want to finance companies contributing to deforestation or the destruction of ecologically critical areas.”
The bank’s move follows a similar announcement from the Spanish bank Santander. On February 25th, Santander made a public statement in which it said that it had “decided to not renew the current funding to APRIL and will not be extending further funding at this stage”.
ABN AMRO’s move comes after months of negotiations led by Greenpeace and supported by Banktrack and the Environmental Paper Network. ABN AMRO has now declared it will continue talks with the NGOs in order to further improve its policies to ensure that it will no longer finance rainforest destruction in the future.
Despite ongoing rainforest clearance, APRIL and its affiliate companies in the Royal Golden Eagle group do not seem to have any problems in finding money to support their activities.
UPDATE: On 26th February, Santander announced that it would stop financing APRIL until the company implemented “new sustainability measures which address its involvement with deforestation”.
UPDATE 2: On 6th March, ABN Amro made a similar announcement.
Greenpeace last week launched a major campaign against Santander for its role in financing APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Limited), the Indonesian pulp and paper producer described by Greenpeace as “Indonesia’s biggest forest destroyer”. Santander has been singled out for good reasons, but it is not alone in financing the company.
Between December 2011 and April 2014, APRIL and its affiliate companies secured at least $1.87 billion in financial support through three syndicated loan deals, which involved 22 known banks.