Infotech French banks have invested more than 313 billion euros in fossil fuels since 2016

French banks have invested more than 313 billion euros in fossil fuels since 2016

The findings are overwhelming: France is the leading European funder of fossil fuels, despite its commitments to carbon neutrality. According to the “Banking on climate chaos” report, published on Wednesday March 30 by seven NGOs, the 60 largest banks in the world have granted 4,582 billion dollars to companies active in fossil fuels since the Paris climate agreement. .

Among them, the six main French banks (BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale, BPCE, La Banque Postale and Crédit Mutuel) have financed this sector to the tune of more than 350 billion dollars, approximately 313 million euros. “87% of this capital comes from just 3 banks: BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole”specifies with the “Obs” Lorette Philippot, “private finance” campaign manager for Friends of the Earth France.

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Contrary to their own commitments and the recommendations of the International Energy Agency, French credit institutions therefore continue to play a key role in the expansion of the oil and gas sector. They have granted, since COP21, 131 billion dollars of financing to the 100 companies which develop the most new fossil energy projects. “This places France in 3and place of the countries most supporting this expansion, behind the United States and China. And BNP Paribas stands out sadly by being the 5and global funder »explains Louis-Maxence Delaporte, “zero fossil finance” campaign manager at Reclaim Finance.

However, these banks all made a commitment in 2021 to be carbon neutral by 2050. By joining the Net Zero Banking Alliance, a UN initiative, they have also committed to reducing their emissions by 50% by 2030.

In 2021 alone, these six banks have allocated about $47 billion to companies linked to the fossil industry. This is less than in 2020, when almost double (88 billion) was used to finance companies in the sector.

A “non-structural” decline in 2021

Not something to rejoice too quickly, tempers the NGOs. “A decline is always good news. But nothing indicates that this trend, if it is even one, will be confirmed and that it will be sustainable”, says Louis-Maxence Delaporte. On the contrary: from January 2022, “ French banks have been involved in several large-scale financial operations for the benefit of BP, TotalEnergies and even Saudi Aramco”leaders in oil and gas expansion.

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“The decrease in funding in 2021 follows a record increase in 2020”adds Lorette Philippot, who points to sectoral commitments “lacunaires” and the absence of a change in bank strategy. “Unfortunately, this decline is not structural. »

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However, some institutions are on the right track. This is the case for La Banque Postale and Crédit Mutuel, “good students, or at least those who set an example”, underlines the campaign manager of Friends of the Earth. A sign that the paradigm shift is possible. While the government has been asking the Paris financial center for two years to get out of unconventional hydrocarbons, the big banks have not given up on funding these projects that are harmful to the environment. For example, they are at the top of the list of financiers of oil and gas exploitation in the Arctic and at sea.

“Banks are addicted to these sectors. They multiply the fine words but the actions do not follow., notes Lorette Philippot. To guide the transition to green finance, the association calls for the inclusion in the law of the exit strategy for the financing of fossil industries, accompanied by an independent monitoring body. “If these commitments are not made, or even badly implemented, the banks must be sanctioned”.

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For its part, the French Banking Federation denounces to AFP figures “whimsical” on the part of the associations and ensures that it “there is no addiction to hydrocarbons on the part of French banks”. She rejects the logic of exclusion ” all-round “ companies linked to fossil fuels and instead advocates supporting citizens and companies towards a lower carbon economy.

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“French banks must finance the entire economy which today is carbon-intensive”she assures, adding that banks also finance “massively renewable energies”.

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