Feb 132015
By Yann Louvel and Greig Aitken, BankTrack, 13 February 2015. 

Global Divestment Day kicks off today, and is set to feature over 400 actions across six continents on Friday and Saturday. Just a week ago, activists received a notable boost: the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, Norway’s Government Pension Global Fund (GPGF), disclosed that in 2014 it had divested from 32 coal companies.

GPGF is “the highest profile institution to divest to date,” noted The Guardian, in a “fast-growing campaign” where “over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world’s governments to tackle global warming.”

A small Norwegian health warning, though, from Greenpeace Norway campaigner Truls Gulowsen comes via Tim Ratcliffe‘s recent blog post: “I see this as a ‘counter-move’ from Norges Bank Investment Management, the group that oversees investments by the Fund, to the growing pressure from divestment, where they try to demonstrate to politicians that they can do OK without stricter political mandates. It is still up to Parliament to instruct the Fund to complete full fossil fuel divestment, as the Fund still has billions in coal, oil and tar sands investments. This decision is scheduled for May this year, so maximum pressure on Norway is needed.”

Needless to say, we’re still a long way off from the emergence of such a ‘counter-move’ from any of the world’s largest commercial banks, all of whom remain firmly wedded to the coal industry. It may be possible to detect signals from bank analysts that fossil fuels are on borrowed time, but while – to take just one example – Deutsche Bank soothsayers are willing to acknowledge increasing climate change consciousness and associated political momentum, their lending book continues to ape OPEC’s ‘taps fully turned on’ behaviour.

Deutsche Bank in fact sits at the top of a very telling graph published in Nature magazine last week to accompany an article from climate scientists that gently poured scepticism on the ‘green-ness’ of the growing green bond market (yes, as currently configured, green bonds are a bit problematic – here’s one example of what they can finance).

Nature graph

Taking BankTrack’s coal finance numbers for the period 2005 to April 2014, the Nature article compares them with the cumulative green bonds that the selected banks have underwritten since the beginning of the green bond market in 2007 through to October 2014.

A stark comparison, then, and a familiar one: green initiatives emerge and develop over a number of years within the banking industry, yet they continue to be comprehensively outstripped by the old, bottom line-friendly, climate-deadly bad stuff.

If the banks’ coal money continues to talk loudly, then Global Divestment Day provides the opportunity to cut to the chase with the banks, and to speak directly to that bottom line.

Indeed, they know what’s coming – here’s what 350.org Australia dug up from an internal report from Swiss bank UBS back in October last year.


Wise words. Let’s not disappoint them this weekend!


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