Thursday, September 3rd – With a week to the ECB Governing Council meeting on September 10th, new research by Reclaim Finance shows that waiting until 2022 (1) to condition asset purchases will lock us in a fossil gas dependent world. In fact, the ECB’s 2020-2021 €1700 billion asset purchases (2) continue to support the growing fossil gas sector and major fossil gas developers. Reclaim Finance calls on Governors to take immediate action.
Gas companies are placing themselves at the center of the European energy transition (3). The ECB’s quantitative easing contributes to this narrative by supporting 24 gas companies operating 123 gas power plants, extracting gas from 48 sites in Europe, and operating 96 gas pipelines and 97 LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminals worldwide.
Companies supported by ECB purchases plan on building 62 new gas infrastructures, with 4 companies responsible for 45 projects: Total, Shell, Engie and Enel. Total and Shell alone are developing 36 projects.
“Fossil gas lures EU leaders with the promise of a small short-term reduction of GHG emissions while locking Europe in a fossil-dependent, high-carbon system. The ECB cannot contribute to this rhetoric by supporting companies that plan 62 new gas projects. It must immediately exclude corporations whose practices are incompatible with the Paris Agreement from its asset purchases. (4)” emphasizes Paul Schreiber, campaigner at Reclaim Finance.
In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the European Central Bank (ECB) decided to buy an additional €1.47tn worth of assets in 2020-2021, i.e. more than 50% of its holdings on June 1st, 2020. After Reclaim Finance warned that asset purchases benefit to 38 fossil fuel companies, including 10 coal companies (5), and under pressure (6), the ECB admitted that it must reconsider its asset purchases (7). Yet, it refuses to make the necessary changes to stop its support to polluters immediately.
By supporting companies that plan on greatly developing natural gas, the ECB turns a blind eye to the many impacts it can have on local communities, human rights, climate, and biodiversity.
“New fossil gas projects mean additional threats to biodiversity and infringements on indigenous rights and Human rights. The ECB notably buys Total’s bonds, even though the fossil fuel giant’s flagship gas projects in Mozambique increases local conflicts and militarization and causes forced population displacement. (8)” concludes Paul Schreiber, campaigner at Reclaim Finance.
Paul Schreiber, Campaigner | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucie Pinson, Director | email@example.com | +33 6 79 54 37 15
(1) The ECB indicated that it is re-examining its asset purchase programs during its strategy review. The strategy review will not end before mid-2021 and will likely be further delayed because of the current crisis. The ECB already decided that the public consultation initially scheduled to close at the end of August will stay open till the end of October. In any case, it will not have any concrete effect before 2022.
(2) Before the Covid-19 crisis, the ECB was planning to buy 240 billion in assets in 2020. Amid the crisis, the ECB first decided to purchase an additional 120 billion in assets, before creating a dedicated program (Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program – PEPP) allowing it – through two decisions – to purchase 1350 billion euros in assets in 2020-2021. See the ECB’s press releases: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/press/pr/date/2020/html/ecb.mp200430~1eaa128265.en.html
(3) Fossil companies notably wants to be integrated in the EU Sustainable Taxonomy. See the briefing : Reclaim Finance, Behind the Curtain: When the gas and nuclear lobbies reshape the EU Sustainable Taxonomy, August 2020.
(4) See the conclusion of Quantitative easing and climate: The ECB’s dirty secret for detailed propositions.
(5) See: Reclaim Finance, Quantitative easing and climate: The ECB’s dirty secret, May 2020.
(7) See Christine Lagarde’s interview in the Financial Times and on French television. The ECB recently updated its Q&A page on CSPP, it now indicates that: “the ECB shares the view that an awareness of environmental issues, together with ethical and socially responsible behaviour, are important for society and actively supports several initiatives in this context beyond the purchase of green bonds under the CSPP.”
(8) See: Les Amis de la Terre France, De l’eldorado gazier au chaos, June 2020.