Thursday, July 2, 2020, Paris – Just one year ago, the federations of the Paris financial center, in dialogue with Bruno Le Maire, pledged that their members would have an exit strategy for coal by mid 2020. Meeschaert, Société Générale, BNP Paribas and CNP Assurances have chosen this anniversary to announce new measures to define their financial support for the sector. But while about a dozen financial institutions have kept their promise, the Paris financial centre as a whole is failing. Oxfam France, Friends of the Earth France and Reclaim Finance call on the French government to sanction financial institutions who do not keep their voluntary commitments, and above all force them to align all their activities with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Today marks the deadline set by the professional federations of French banks, insurers and asset managers to publish an exit strategy from coal. The latest commitments in this regard are those of BNP Paribas and CNP Assurances, which have just updated their coal policies, following Société Générale yesterday and Meeschaert, who adopted its first ever coal policy on Tuesday. The NGOs note that only a dozen financial players have kept their promises to adopt an exit strategy for coal in line with the Paris Agreement.

Lucie Pinson, founder and director of Reclaim Finance, analyses: “It takes patience and a good magnifying glass to separate the wheat from the chaff in the policies adopted by French financial players on coal [1]. Trade federations will want to pretend that having a coal policy or setting release dates is enough to deliver on the promises made last year, but the devil is in the details. We can only welcome the enormous progress made by BNP Paribas today, but we will remain very vigilant regarding the application of the bank’s new policy, which has become too accustomed to announcement effects. As for Societe Generale, there is no need to be Sherlock Holmes: without any request to companies with less than 25% exposure to coal, particularly with regard to the adoption of a coal exit plan, the bank remains one of the worst performers on the market [2].”

For Lorette Philippot, head of the private finance campaign at Friends of the Earth France: “As Bruno Le Maire reminded us at the Climate Finance Day last November, the alignment of financial players’ portfolios with the Paris Agreement requires ambitious efforts to reduce their support for fossil fuels [1]. However, the government has not yet set any course to guarantee such a withdrawal, has not built any dam in the face of the constant and even growing influx of French private capital into oil and gas. This is the case even for the most toxic and risky industries such as shale hydrocarbons, to which French banks and investors are overexposed [3]. The climate cannot afford the luxury of a new decade of procrastination, slow progress and lack of ambition in finance, as has been the case with coal.”

“If there is progress on the financial players’ side, it is still small steps compared to the size of the banks’ carbon footprint [4]. The self-regulation of private actors is not enough to move our world forward to the next phase. We can no longer be satisfied with wishful thinking. The Plan de Relance expected in September offers a unique opportunity to accelerate the transition of our banks towards a more sustainable model: precise and binding greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, consistent with the Paris Agreement, must be set in law for all major financial institutions”, concludes Alexandre Poidatz, Finance and Energy Transition Advocacy Officer at Oxfam France.