Climate debt news
Bankrolling climate change: exposing the top 20 dirtiest banks
Guest post by Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaigner, BankTrack.
Private banks are the first to claim to fight climate change - but do they put their money where their mouth is? That’s exactly what we, a group of NGOs (the german Urgewald, the South African's Groundwork, Earth Life and the international network BankTrack decided to look for last year, analyzing the investments of the world’s largest banks in the coal industry, the major culprit in the drama of climate change. And the answer to that question is… NO.
The report which presents the results of the study, Bankrolling Climate Change : A look into the Portfolios of the World’s Largest Banks, was launched last November in Durban during the UN climate negotiations, and the results are outstanding. We examined the portfolios of 93 of the world’s leading banks and looked into their support for 31 major coal-mining companies and 40 producers of coal-fired electricity, the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions. And the total value of coal financing provided by these banks since 2005 amounts to a huge 235 billion euros.
What’s even more outrageous is the fact that this financing nearly doubled between 2005, the year the Kyoto Protocol came to force, and 2010. And there is still an abundance of plans to build new coal-fired power plants. These plants need a lot of capital to be built and that’s why they rely heavily on banks for their construction. If banks provide money for these new projects, they will wreck the climate. That’s why we need to take banks to task now.
To help target them, we also identified the top 20 “climate killer” banks around the world. These are the banks that provide the largest amounts to the coal industry. The top four climate killer banks are all from the US but we also find in that list three banks from the UK, Barclays, which ranks 5th with more than 11 billion euros, RBS, 7th with close to 11 billion euros and HSBC, which ranks 20th with more than 4 billion euros. Another very good reason to shift your bank account to an ethical bank and to participate to the growing international move your money movement.
We also looked into the statements of these banks to compare their significant involvement in the coal sector with what they are actually saying on climate issues. Interestingly, all of the top 20 climate killer banks in our ranking have made far-reaching statements regarding their commitment to combating climate change. JPMorgan Chase is “helping the world transition to a low-carbon economy” by being the top 1 financier of the coal industry worldwide; BNP Paribas adopted “a strong commitment to combating climate change”; and RBS explains how “as a financial services group, our direct impact on the environment in terms of climate change (…) is limited”!
These banks are destabilizing our climate system. We therefore call on them to stop bankrolling climate change and to quit coal. We ask them to shift their portfolios away from dirty fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency, and finally to set and implement ambitious CO2 reduction goals for their financed emissions. As more and more people confront coal around the world, join us to turn that heat on the banks.
For more info and case studies on Coal India, coal mining in Colombia, CFPPs in China and in South Africa, check out the “Bankrolling Climate Change" report.