Published earlier this week by BankTrack, Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club and Oil Change International, the Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2016 – entitled ‘Shorting the Climate’ – has already been making waves. Thanks to Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and many others for pushing #shortingtheclimate out there on social media: it’s vital that the call goes out widely to the global banking sector urging an end to its multi-billion dollar support for fossil fuels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Righting Finance, 13 January 2015.
Last month in Geneva, at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights, BankTrack launched a research report examining the performance of 32 large global banks against the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We developed 12 criteria, each closely based on the text of the Guiding Principles themselves, to assess where banks were making progress in implementing the Guiding Principles and where there were gaps, three and a half years on from their adoption by the Human Rights Council. So far, so uncontroversial, one may think.
However, the Thun Group of Banks, the informal discussion group of banks on human rights, responded to say that the exercise itself was “premature” – at least in its attempts to examine whether banks were meeting their obligations to provide access to remedy to victims of human rights abuse.
The city of Thun in Switzerland isn’t a bad place to travel for a meeting. Overlooked by the snow-capped Bernese Alps, and situated on the banks of the clear blue Thunersee, it’s easy to see why a group of seven banks picked this location to hash out the details of their October 2013 discussion paper on how banks can implement the UN’s new global human rights standard, the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The campaign to stop bank financing of mountaintop removal coal mining is gaining momentum. For years, RAN and other organizations in the global BankTrack network have urged U.S. and European banks to stop financing the devastation caused by mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. BankTrack members have worked closely with advocates from Appalachia — the region hardest hit by MTR — including Paul Corbit Brown and Elise Keaton from Keeper of the Mountains, and Bob Kincaid from Coal River Mountain Watch. Together, they’ve travelled around the U.S. and Europe to speak directly to CEOs and boards of banks at their annual shareholder meetings and urge them to stop bankrolling mountaintop removal coal mining.
Three years can be an eternity for a coal company. In October 2010, Coal India, then the world’s largest coal miner, was seen as one of the most valuable equity investments in the emerging economies. With its 1.2 billion strong population and a healthy growing economy, India seemed primed to devour plenty of cheap coal. Coal India with a virtual monopoly over coal supply was set to feed this hunger and provide enormous profit for shareholders. But 2013 was Big Coal’s Annus Horribilisand even Coal India wasn’t spared.