The industry-led Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), which is committed to financially contribute to achieving the 1.5°C target, commissioned research that shows low carbon energy investments need to account for at least 80% of energy investments compared to fossil fuels (4:1) by 2030 to reach climate goals (2). However, no bank looks set to even reach this minimum requirement.
Overall the 60 banks saw $2.5 trillion in loans and bond underwriting provided to the companies examined for energy activities between January 2016 and July 2022. Of that, $2.3 trillion was related to the production of fossil fuel energy and just $178 billion was related to clean energy activities such as wind and solar.
Bank loans and bond underwriting for renewables went from 7% of the overall financing of the energy companies examined in 2016 to a high of 10% in 2021, but virtually stagnated between these dates. The total amount of clean energy financing in this period remained abysmally low: $23.2 billion in 2016 and $34.5 billion in 2021.
Citi and JP Morgan Chase pumped the most into the energy companies examined between 2016 and 2022 with some $181 billion each but just 2% of this went to renewables. Similarly, only 2% of Barclays’ financing for the energy companies examined went to renewables. Renewable financing for Royal Bank of Canada is at just 1%, Mizuho 4% and HSBC 5%. The figure stands at 7% for French bank BNP Paribas.
Data calls into question net zero commitments
Surprisingly, the data reveals that GFANZ member banks on average provide less financing for renewable energy than their counterparts that are not in the alliance. This makes some of the GFANZ members’ speeches on financing the transition ring hollow at best.
When asked this week during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos whether Citi had ever refused to fund new fossil fuel projects, CEO Jane Fraser responded: “We need to have energy security and we need to be operating on cleaner technologies and the two, as we are seeing right now, cannot be mutually exclusive.” Yet, today’s data demonstrably proves that Citi is prioritising the proliferation of fossil fuels and existing relationships over the very clean technologies that she recognises we need.
This inconsistency directly echoes the new report published last week by a dozen NGOs, including Reclaim Finance, revealing that after committing to net zero by joining GFANZ, financial institutions have continued pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the companies developing fossil fuels. This report indicates that Citigroup, one of the founding members of the NZBA, approved 136 transactions that directly provided and facilitated US$30 billion in capital to fossil fuel developers, including Saudi Aramco, QatarEnergy, and Gazprom since joining in April 2021.
For years, climate finance groups have criticised banks over their financing of fossil fuel expansion. With the window of opportunity to avoid the worst of a climate breakdown rapidly closing, it’s now time to call on banks to massively scale up their support to sustainable energies as well.