The world’s biggest banks, including two that recently joined the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board, invested nearly US$800 billion in new fossil fuel development from 2013 to 2015, concludes the latest edition of the Shorting the Climate: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card.
The banks’ fossil investments over the last three years have included $306 billion for “extreme” oil drilling in the Arctic or tar sands/oil sands, $282 billion for liquefied natural gas infrastructure, $154 billion for the 20 largest coal-fired power producers, and $42 billion for coal mining, according to the report released this week by the Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, the U.S. Sierra Club, and Oil Change International.
“At a time when the world’s nations have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5°C to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, leading financial institutions have continued business as usual investment in fossil fuels in direct contradiction of global consensus,” EcoWatch reports. “If governments follow through on the Paris agreement and limit carbon emissions, these investments could likely result in stranded assets and significant losses.”
Although 10 of the biggest U.S. and European banks announced plans to step away from coal investments last year, “most of these focused only on coal mining,” said BankTrack Climate and Energy Coordinator Yann Louvel. “Our assessment clearly shows that they still have a long way to go to concretely exit this industry, and even more for the other extreme fossil fuel sectors.”
That assessment runs counter to the companies’ claims, “as we too often read in their sustainability reports,” that they are fighting climate change, Louvel added.
“In finance terms, ‘short-selling’ or ‘shorting’ is when an investor profits if a company or asset declines in value,” explained Rainforest Action Network Senior Campaigner Jason Opeña Disterhoft. “It means betting on failure. After the Paris agreement, financing extreme fossil fuels amounts to shorting the climate. These bets are also at the expense of some of the most vulnerable communities living in fossil fuel ‘sacrifice zones’ around the world.”
Two financial institutions identified in the report, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, were recently invited to join the GCF board, over the objections of civil society groups, ClimateHome reports. Deutsche Bank funneled $7 billion to coal mining over the three-year study period, while HSBC invested $4 billion.