European banks continue to fund fossil fuels

Barclays and HSBC are two of the major banks which continue to fund fossil fuel investments. Photo credit: AFP / Getty Images.

By Anders Lorenzen

A report by ShareAction has delivered a damning verdict on European banks connection to fossil fuel investments. Despite various net-zero pledges, they have apparently continued to invest billions of dollars into fossil fuel projects, new data shows. 

According to ShareAction, in 2021, 25 of the leading banks in Europe provided a staggering $55 billion to energy companies planning to expand oil and gas production.

Even though this represented a fall from the $106 billion lent in 2020 and the $83 billion lent in 2019, it is still above the $49 billion and $50 billion figures of 2018 and 2017 respectively and represents a huge investment in an industry that should be radically shrinking and not growing if we are to have any hope of staying below the 1.5 degrees C threshold. Remarkably it also occurred in the crucial ‘climate action year; of 2021 which culminated with the COP26 climate summit held in Glasgow.

The investment is also at odds with the guidance of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which insists that there should be no new investments in new oil and gas fields in order to keep alive a 50% possibility of staying with a 1.5 degrees C temperature rise.

Major European banks at the heart of continued fossil fuel support 

It is again another case of what is said in public does not match what is actually happening. 24 out of the 25 banks looked at, have already pledged to decarbonise their loan portfolios, including HSBC, Barclays and BNP Paribas.

In the wake of the report, ShareAction has called on investors to demand that banks implement policies to restrict finance oil and gas expansion and instead back climate-related shareholder resolutions in annual general meetings (AGM).

Kelly Shields, Senior Officer for Banking Standards at ShareAction said: “Last year shareholders were instrumental in pushing banks to adopt or strengthen restrictions on coal finance. This year they need to replicate that success with oil & gas expansion.”

The three major banks mentioned said they’re ‘committed to the climate targets reached in 2015 at the Paris Agreement’ and are ‘supporting the transition to renewable energy.

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