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.
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.
With just 21 days left until the start of the Paris Climate Summit (COP21), there is still time for banks to make a strong commitment to do their part in stopping climate change; by publicly pledging before ‘Paris’ to stop financing the coal industry.
Banks that make this ‘Paris Pledge’ to abandon coal will help ensure that ‘Paris’ will indeed be the watershed event we need it to be in the global fight to combat climate change. After all, while the negotiations in Paris will focus solely on reaching emission reduction targets, the tailpipe approach, the real challenge is at the wellhead; how do we keep at least 80 percent of all currently known fossil fuel reserves in the ground, starting with coal?
With just two months to go now before the United Nations climate summit in Paris, the warnings about the consequences of climate inaction are coming thick and fast.
Stepping up this week has been Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, with tough talk on how climate change will lead to financial crises and falling living standards – that is “unless the world’s leading countries do more to ensure that their companies come clean about their current and future carbon emissions.”
What almost every major country has been doing in the run-up to Paris is submitting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions, the so-called ‘intended nationally determined contributions’. As the Climate Progress website has reported this week, the pledged CO2 reductions – including from the US, the European Union and China – have delivered something on paper at least. Growing realism, however, about where even a ‘successful’ Paris agreement will likely leave us is summed up thus by Climate Progress:
We’ve just published the latest additions to our series of coal bank briefings, and it’s a triple whammy of information assessing the coal finance and associated policies of the UK’s three biggest banks: Barclays, HSBC and RBS.
The three also happen to be the UK’s top three coal banks, having coughed up a combined total of more than £30 billion for the most climate-damaging fossil fuel sector between 2005 and April 2014. The new briefings focus on each bank’s policy approach to coal mining and coal power finance, and describe a variety of legacy investments to the coal industry that are still looming large with damaging impacts for the environment, the climate and local communities.
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?
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.