Mar 242016
By Oleg Savitsky, National Ecological Center of Ukraine, 24 March 2016

On March 18 DTEK, the Ukrainian power giant and the country’s biggest coal company, announced its financial results for 2015, and they painted a very bleak picture. The company’s net electricity output dropped 20%, electricity exports were down by 55%, and its debt was confirmed as having reached USD 2.2 billion.

Just the week before, on March 10, Fitch Ratings downgraded DTEK’s credit rating from ‘C’ to ‘RD’ – restricted default, which is Fitch’s final rating before bankruptcy when a company has defaulted on a bond, loan or another financial obligation. Half of DTEKs excessive and decrepit coal-fired power plants are now standing idle and turning into scrap metal. Continue reading »

Mar 182016
By Catalina von Hildebrand, BankTrack, 18th March 2016

Last weekend, over a thousand Bangladeshis and Indians gathered in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to take part in a four day, 250 kilometre ‘Long March’ to voice a clear message: Save the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.

The Bangladeshi and Indian governments are currently intent on building a coal-fired power plant in the Rampal region 14 kilometres northwest of the Sundarbans, widely known as ‘the lungs of Bangladesh’, and only four kilometres from the designated ecological boundary of the sprawling forest, a World Heritage site and a Ramsar protected wetland. Continue reading »

Mar 082016
By Yann Louvel, BankTrack, 8th March 2016.

Swiss bank UBS has been making headlines in recent weeks as the latest major international bank to be facing the embarrassment of a legal probe into alleged tax malfeasance. As a formal investigation in Belgium opens into the practices of UBS, the prosecutor’s office in Brussels claimed at the end of February that “UBS is suspected of forming a criminal organization, money laundering and serious tax fraud.”

Far less publicity, however, has surrounded the Swiss bank’s belated catching up with the rush of forward momentum from major banks which announced new coal financing policies in 2015. UBS, currently BankTrack’s number 13 ‘coal bank’ with over €11 billion in financing to the coal sector between 2005 and April 2014, has also, it would appear, started to see the light on coal. Continue reading »

Feb 252016

By Kuba Gogolewski, Development YES Open-Pit Mines NO, 25th February 2016.

In spite of the Paris Agreement and the European Union’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, Polish state-owned and private companies are pushing on with plans to develop a string of new open-pit lignite mines.

And while local communities on the front line of these potentially destructive projects continue to resist them, many well-known banking names – including some which have recently made encouraging, if belated, moves towards the coal finance exit doors – remain anchored in the Polish coal sector, and appear more than willing to prop up an industry which now appears to be on its last legs. Continue reading »

Feb 172016

By Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack, 17th February 2016.

As Facing Finance launches its 4th edition of the Dirty Profits report exposing companies and financial institutions benefiting from violations of human rights, BankTrack examines why banks are not making more progress towards meeting the human rights responsibilities established by the UN.

While the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are not perfect, their full adoption by the banking sector could spur real progress in business adherence to human rights standards across the board, making corporate activities which cause human rights abuses less likely to find the finance they need to proceed, and providing more avenues for victims to seek justice. Yet four years on from the endorsement of the Guiding Principles by the UN Human Rights Council, banks are still a long way from fully adopting them.

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Feb 022016

 Bangladesh’s Rampal moves forward, as bank interest in the Dominican Republic’s Punta Catalina plant and Indonesia’s Tanjong Jati B raises concerns over the strength of their climate commitments

By Greig Aitken and Yann Louvel, BankTrack, 4 February 2016

As we’ve been settling into the new year and wondering how visible and – crucially – rapid any genuine follow through from the words of the Paris climate summit would be, there’s been a nagging concern at the back of our minds: in what’s supposed to be these new, ambitious ‘1.5 degree Celsius limit’ times, what’s going to be the first major new coal installation investment of 2016, and who’s going to be bankrolling it?

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Dec 222015
By Oleg Savitsky (NECU) and Greig Aitken (BankTrack), 22 December 2015

Almost two months ago, NECU and BankTrack issued an Investor Alert describing the circumstances which had forced Ukraine’s biggest coal company, DTEK, to seek a debt restructuring agreement with a host of European banks, including Dutch ING, Italy’s UniCredit and Austria’s Erste Bank. The troubled coal giant has been seeking a delay in the payment of most of its $3 billion debt. Continue reading »

Dec 122015
By Yann Louvel, BankTrack, 12 December 2015

Earlier this week I was able to participate and ask a question at one of the many Paris COP21 side events: the launch of the ‘Five Voluntary Principles for Mainstreaming Climate Action within Financial Institutions’, convened by a group of public ‘development’ banks including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The new principles so far have 26 banks from the public and private sectors on board, and appear set to be touted for further signatories in the coming months.

These are the latest in a series of voluntary principles on climate by global banks which have gone nowhere over the past decade – see the Carbon Principles and Climate Principles, launched in 2008, which subsequently disappeared without a trace. My general impression is that these principles won’t go far either. They appear, though, to have served another purpose for the financial sector, providing PR greenwashing at the most important climate gathering of the decade. Continue reading »

Dec 082015

Civil society says no to greenwashing and urges action

By Lucie Pinson, Friends of the Earth France and Yann Louvel, BankTrack, 8 December 2015

The Tata Mundra coal-fired power plant in India is one of the largest power plants in Asia and for years now has been the subject of much controversy. The first of the Indian government’s so-called UMPP plants, an ambitious series of ‘ultra mega power plants’ to be rolled out all across the country, it was launched in 2008 and has been fully operational since 2013.

And it’s been seven years of controversy since BNP Paribas, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and several Indian banks decided to finance the project in 2008 in spite of its many risks. Faced with the environmental and social impacts of the plant, directly affected local communities took steps against the World Bank in 2011, and then against the Asian Development Bank in 2013. In addition to the 30 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually by Tata Mundra, the construction of the plant itself caused the polluting of rivers, the destruction of mangroves, and seriously affected the lives of local fishermen who have lost their livelihoods. All this to see electricity prices increase instead of the better access to electricity that was promised.

Today’s birthday, then, of World Bank president Dr Jim Kim, and the Pinocchio Prize picked up by BNP Paribas in the last few days in the ‘Local impacts’ category, provide an opportunity to reflect on the current status of the Tata Mundra project and the demands of communities that still remain unsatisfied. Continue reading »

Nov 202015

By Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack, 20 November 2015

Earlier this week I attended this year’s United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, where some 2,300 representatives of business, government and civil society met on the shores of Lake Geneva, in November weather which was eerily spring-like.

The Forum is intended to take stock of the challenges and ways forward in putting into practice the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. One thing we considered a major challenge when it comes to the banking sector is its lack of progress on providing access to remedy for those affected by human rights impacts – so we were pleased to see a panel discussion on “providing access to effective remedy in the financial sector” on the Forum’s main agenda.

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