Countdown to Glasgow

This November, Glasgow will host COP26, the most important climate summit since COP21 in Paris in 2015. Banks, insurers and investors must act to help make COP26 — the so-called “finance COP” — a success. To genuinely  tackle the climate emergency, they must stop supporting the expansion of
the oil, gas and coal sectors.

WHY financial institutions should
STOP supporting fossil fuel expansion

  • There is no room in the global carbon budget for ANY new coal, oil or gas projects.

  • Fossil fuel production must decrease by 6% annually.

  • Many coal, oil and gas projects entail environmental destruction and human & land rights violations.

WHAT financial institutions must DO to have a credible net-zero commitment

  • Halt support for any new coal, oil and gas projects, and for companies with fossil fuel expansion plan.
  • Only support companies with a credible coal, oil and gas phase-out plan.
  • Start rapidly phasing out exposure to fossil fuels in order to fully exit coal before 2040 and oil & gas before 2050.

Greenwasher of the day

Financing to fossil fuels in 2020 (US$bln)

Intesa Sanpaolo is Italy’s worst top fossil bank. It channeled $2.3bn of financing and had $2.7bn of investments in fossil fuel companies in 2020. Intesa’s unconditional support to oil and gas is a cause for concern, especially in relation to exploitation of the Arctic, the Permian Basin and some North American regions inhabited by frontline communities. Intesa channeled $3bn to coal companies between October 2018 and October 2020. It finally released a coal policy in 2020, but with loopholes large enough to allow it to keep financing coal giants Glencore and RWE . Its fossil fuel policy is far weaker than that of Italian peer UniCredit and, above all, what the science demands.

Promise

We are still looking for one

Reality

Intesa keeps financing the expansion of the coal sector

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BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas more than doubled its financing to fossil fuels between 2018 and 2020, with a 41% increase between 2019 and 2020 alone.  Over the same period, it increased its financing to key fossil developers by more than six times. The French bank stopped supporting pure players in unconventional fossil sectors in 2017, but has since doubled down on its financing to the oil and gas supermajors. These are not covered by the bank’s policy despite being at the forefront of oil and gas expansion. BNP Paribas was the largest financier of BP, Shell and Eni, and the second largest of Total, between 2016 and 2020, with some huge deals made last year. Despite having adopted one of the strongest policies on shale oil and gas, BNP Paribas increased its financing to the fracking industry more than any other bank between 2019 and 2020. BNP Paribas’s net-zero pledge will ring hollow until the bank cuts its ties with the oil and gas expansionists.  

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HSBC

Despite its 2020 pledge to become a net zero bank by 2050 or sooner, HSBC has no policy in place to stop financing fossil fuel expansion. HSBC doubled its financing to key fossil developers between 2018 and 2020. HSBC is still not done with coal. It channeled $15bn to coal companies between October 2018 and October 2020. Following investor pressure, HSBC tabled a resolution at its 2021 AGM committing it to phasing out its coal finance by 2030 in Europe/OECD and by 2040 globally. It must now deliver on this commitment and publish the measures it will take to meet its targets. To be credible, HSBC must  immediately cut its financing to all companies with coal expansion plans. HSBC has provided $4bn to companies still planning new coal plants, such as PLN in Indonesia and KEPCO in South Korea, in the last two years. 

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ICBC

With $40bn channeled to coal companies between October 2018 and October 2020, ICBC is the top coal bank globally. The bank is not only involved in the financing of Chinese coal companies active domestically, but also those developing new coal projects in Asia, Africa and Europe. One example is the Hunutlu coal plant in Turkey, which is planned in a biodiversity protection zone and faces local and national opposition due to its pollution, health, environmental, and climate impacts. This support is in stark contradiction to the ICBC’s role as a founding member of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Banking, which call for alignment with the Paris Agreement. While ICBC also doubled its financing to all fossil fuels between 2018 and 2020, the priority for the Chinese bank is to align with international best practice and stop financing coal expansion.

ICBC acts as financial advisor for EACOP, a massive pipeline that would rip through the heart of Africa – displacing communities, endangering wildlife and fueling climate change.

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AIG

AIG is one of the world’s top 3 insurers of oil and gas, and one of the few major insurers able and willing to underwrite new multi-billion dollar coal projects. AIG has zero plans to limit underwriting for or investment in fossil fuels. AIG continues to insure oil and gas projects with abysmal impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights, including the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. Insurers Zurich, Munich Re, and Talanx have publicly dropped their coverage of Trans Mountain, but not AIG. Unlike 36 other insurers, AIG has failed to rule out insuring the Adani Carmichael coal mine in Australia. AIG must address its role in fueling the climate crisis and violating Indigenous rights.

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AXA

AXA is among the 15 biggest oil and gas insurers worldwide and has yet to adopt a robust policy that ends its support for new oil and gas projects, even in the riskiest sectors. Despite having pledged to become a net-zero insurer and investor, AXA only bans coverage of new tar sands projects and new projects in some parts of the Arctic. The companies behind these projects, including Total, can still be insured by AXA. AXA voted against a climate resolution filed at Total’s shareholder meeting in 2020 and for Total’s bogus gas-expanding climate strategy at its 2021 meeting. AXA has repeatedly defended fossil gas as a bridge fuel and its support to the highly-polluting fracking industry, a sector in which it held $2.3bn of investments in 2020.

 

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LLOYD’S OF LONDON

Lloyd’s is the world’s largest insurance market, accounting for 40% of energy sector premiums in 2018. In their 2017 report on stranded assets, Lloyd’s warned that “coal-fired power would need to be phased out completely” by 2050 to limit global warming to 2°C. Yet its coal policy allows underwriters to insure new coal projects until the end of 2021, which would blow past this deadline. The minimal measures announced will not stop its members from continuing to insure coal companies, either. While they end the insurance of coal companies above a 30% exclusion threshold, application only takes effect from 2030, which is far too late to ensure a coal phase-out by 2030 in Europe/OECD and 2040 worldwide. 

 

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Tokio Marine

Tokio Marine Holdings, based in Japan, stands out as one of the top 10 insurers of coal, oil and gas globally. In September 2020, the company adopted a coal policy but with loopholes large enough to effectively allow them to provide coverage for any conceivable new coal plant still planned around the world. Importantly, the policy does not include the direct coverage of new coal mines or new coal infrastructure, nor the provision of insurance to coal companies. Tokio Marine promotes itself as a member of many climate-related platforms, including the PSI, but lags behind many of its European peers that have ruled out coverage to any new coal projects and companies developing them.  Significantly, as a company with over 200 subsidiaries around the world, the company in principle will not commit to ruling out coverage for any fossil fuel project, including those that have faced ongoing local opposition and international outcry, such as Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Australia and Godda coal project in India, the Matarbari Coal Power Projects (Phase I and II) in Bangladesh, Vung Ang II coal project in Vietnam and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline.

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Legal & General

With $7.1bn invested as of January 2021, Legal & General is the top UK investor in coal companies, holding close to 20% of all UK investments in the coal industry. Its biggest holdings are in BHP Group, which is among the top 100 greenhouse gas emitting companies of all time and still has coal expansion plans. The mining group has committed to selling its coal mines – but not to closing them down. L&G as an asset owner updated its coal policy and excludes companies deriving more than 20% of their revenues or 30% of their power generation from thermal coal. As for its asset management arm, which manages $1.3tn, the coal policy adopted is even weaker as it excludes only mining companies deriving more than 30% of their revenues from coal and most worryingly, applies to only a third of the amount managed. Such policies are far from what is required to avoid climate chaos. In fact, L&G can still invest in companies planning new coal projects, such as Coal India and NTPC, and important coal companies such as Glencore. 

 

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BlackRock

Despite BlackRock’s net zero commitments by 2050 and its thermal coal exclusion policy, $85bn of assets managed by BlackRock are still invested in the coal industry. BlackRock’s global coal policy affects only 17% of the entire coal industry: among its investees are some of the biggest coal producers in the world such as Adani. It has a shocking $24bn invested in companies that have coal expansion plans, such as Sumitomo and KEPCO. Most importantly, BlackRock’s coal policy does not apply to its index funds and ETFs which account for a majority of the $9tn the firm manages. If BlackRock is serious about its net zero pledge, it must acknowledge that the only pathway to net zero is one where fossil fuel producers immediately cease expansion plans.

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CalPERS

CalPERS is a proud member of the Net Zero Asset Owners Alliance, the Climate Action 100+ and the Powering Past Coal Alliance. Yet, the giant Californian public pension fund still holds over $30 billion in fossil fuels. CalPERS also fails the litmus test of climate credibility: exiting coal. Its very weak coal policy excludes only the few companies that derive more than 50% of their revenues from thermal coal mining, meaning that CalPERS still has nearly $8 billion invested in companies on the Global Coal Exit List. CalPERS continues to invest in fossil fuel extraction and expansion, despite recent International Energy Agency warnings that all new fossil fuel projects must cease immediately in order to meet the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Accord. For example, in January 2021, CalPERS held $48 million in China Energy, the biggest coal plant developer in the world, which is planning to build 43 GW of new coal power capacity (enough energy to power 12.9 million homes). 

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Amundi

The Responsible Investment Policy published by Amundi in 2021 completely ignores the oil and gas sectors. Amundi is part of the Crédit Agricole Group which has a policy with minimal restrictions for oil and gas but does not cover investments. Amundi can therefore continue to invest in the riskiest oil and gas sub-sectors, including fracking, tar sands, and the Arctic, and to support companies developing new projects in these sectors. For example, Amundi is the second biggest investor in Total, with €9bn of exposure to the oil and gas supermajor which is planning five new projects in the Arctic. Amundi voted against a climate resolution filed at Total’s shareholder meeting in 2020 and for Total’s bogus gas-expanding climate strategy at its 2021 meeting. Finally, Amundi does not yet apply its coal policy to the growing amount of assets it manages ‘passively’. 

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Intesa SanPaolo

Intesa Sanpaolo is Italy’s worst fossil bank. It channeled $3.3bn of financing to, and had $3.3bn of investments in, fossil fuel companies in 2020. Intesa’s unconditional support to oil and gas is a cause for concern, especially in relation to exploitation of the Arctic, the Permian Basin and some North American regions inhabited by frontline communities. Intesa channeled $3.1bn to coal companies between October 2018 and October 2020. It finally released a coal policy in 2020, but with loopholes large enough to allow it to keep financing coal giants Glencore, RWE and Fortum-Uniper. Its fossil fuel policy is far weaker than that of Italian peer UniCredit and, above all, far weaker than what the science demands.

 

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JP Morgan Chase

JPMC is by far the world’s biggest banker of fossil fuels, with $317bn to the fossil fuel industry 2016-2020, a third more than the next biggest fossil bank. In 2020 JPMC announced a “Paris-aligned financing commitment”. This year, it followed up with 2030 targets for the oil and gas sectors. These “carbon intensity” targets are unacceptably weak and would allow JPMC to continue financing companies that are expanding fossil fuel extraction, transport, and consumption. Moreover, JPMC channeled more than $26bn to the coal industry between October 2018 and October 2020, and its policy has loopholes large enough to allow the bank to keep financing coal giants Duke Energy and Glencore. Its policy is far weaker than that of competitors like BNP Paribas and, above all, what the science demands.  JPMC needs to rapidly phase out its exposure to coal, immediately stop financing any new fossil fuel supply projects, and rewrite its oil and gas targets to align them with the new IEA net zero by 2050 scenario.

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MUFG

The $148bn that Japan’s biggest bank has provided to fossil companies since the adoption of the Paris Agreement makes it the 6th worst fossil bank in the world, and the worst in Asia. The bank announced a new environmental policy in April 2021 which failed to include any measures to reduce its oil and gas financing. MUFG was the largest banker of coal power outside of China between 2016 and 2020 and provided more than $36 billion of financing to the coal industry between October 2018 and October 2020. Its coal policy continues to fail to exclude companies developing new coal projects and includes no commitment to phase out coal finance. 

 

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Barclays

Barclays is Europe’s biggest fossil bank. It doubled its financing for key coal, oil and gas developers between 2018 and 2020. It contributed $28bn to coal companies between October 2018 and October 2020. This was half of all coal finance from UK banks over this period and makes Barclays the 8th biggest global coal bank. Barclays coal policy is inadequate as it only excludes companies deriving more than 50% of their revenues from thermal coal. It plans to lower that threshold to 30% in 2025, and 10% in 2030. But this will not stop the continued financing of many coal giants, such as the utility RWE, nor will it halt support to companies with coal expansion plans such as Adani and Power Finance Corporation in India, and the mining conglomerate Glencore, in the coming years. Barclays’s net-zero pledge cannot be taken seriously without a robust coal exit policy.

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Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank has a long list of fossil fuel clients. Companies it financed in 2020 included ExxonMobil, Total, Glencore, Dominion and Adani. It is currently arranging an IPO for Wintershall DEA, a company that is involved in the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and is planning to increase its oil and gas production by 30%. In May 2021, Deutsche announced a new sustainability strategy which failed to include any tightening of its weak fossil fuel policies and instead included measures such as sustainability training of its employees and reducing fuel usage by its vehicle fleet.  If Deutsche Bank’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050 is anything more than greenwashing, it must cease financing fossil fuel clients that lack meaningful plans to transition to clean energy, in line with the IEA’s new net zero scenario. 

 

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Wall of shame

Time is fast running out to limit global warming to 1.5°C and avoid the sixth mass extinction. Yet, with governments’ tacit agreement, banks, insurers and investors remain loyal supporters of the fossil fuel industry. No major private financial institution has adopted measures to stop supporting the expansion of oil and gas, even though many have pledged to go net zero or to align their businesses with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In short, all bark, no bite. And it must stop. Climate science tells us that the production of fossil fuels must go down by 6% annually starting now and the International Energy Agency has made clear that if we are to stay under 1.5°C, we must immediately halt any coal, oil and gas projects that increase fossil fuel supply. Financial institutions must stop supporting such projects and the companies behind them.

COP26 must be a turning point. As citizens, we have the responsibility to expose empty net zero promises on climate. These 16 dirty financial institutions bear a major responsibility for the climate catastrophe. Together, we can pressure them to change. It’s time to reclaim finance and make it work for the climate.

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