On the occasion of the last Climate Finance Day of Emmanuel Macron’s mandate and on the eve of COP26, the activists demand that the government immediately impose on financial actors to stop all support for oil and gas expansion, while the financing of major French banks to fossil fuels has nearly doubled since COP21 1 and the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement.
This morning, 18 activists from Friends of the Earth France and Alternatiba Paris invited themselves to the Bruno Le Maire’s speech, to denounce the lack of reaction of the government to the massive support of financial actors to fossil fuels and the vacuity of their commitments on climate. The activists “sounded the climate alarm”, making numerous alarms ring out in the Grand Auditorium and displaying the messages “Your finance, our lives”, “Macron, leader of fossil finance”, “Stop the expansion of oil and gas”.
The scientific community, the International Energy Agency and the United Nations are all unanimous: to limit global warming to 1.5°C, it is imperative to give up developing hydrocarbons. Despite this climate and political priority, financing by major French banks for fossil fuels increased by an average of 19% per year between 2016 and 2020, totaling more than 250 billion euros. AXA, for its part, remains one of the leading insurers of the oil and gas industry. These institutions have not even ceased to fuel the expansion of the sectors most harmful to the environment and populations, such as shale oil, drilling in the Arctic or in very deep waters.
For Lorette Philippot, private finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France: “Since 2018, consecutive Climate Finance Days have been an opportunity for the government to stage its so-called leadership in sustainable finance. For the past three years, Bruno Le Maire has taken to the podium to express his indignation about climate change but has relied solely on the goodwill of financial multinationals to do something about it, and 2021 was unfortunately no exception. The result: absolutely nothing has prevented our banks from becoming Europe’s leading financiers of fossil fuels in 2020. This is a national shame. We are determined to remind the Minister and the President today, on the occasion of this new greenwashing summit and a few days before the opening of the COP26“.
In particular, none of the major French banks – BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale, AXA – has presented a credible strategy for exiting from non-conventional oil and gas, as requested by Bruno Le Maire at Climate Finance Day 2020. The big banks preferred to stick to announcing a week ago derisory commitments on oil sands and shale hydrocarbons 2. Faced with this failure, Bruno Le Maire was content to say that the commitments on unconventional oil and gas did not go far enough, but did not even formulate a specific request to ensure that his appeal launched a year ago would not remain a dead letter.
Bruno Le Maire also spoke about public subsidies for fossil fuels, saying that they are a problem. However, he did not announce anything about abandoning the public subsidy to TotalEnergies’ Arctic LNG 2 gas mega-project 3, leaving the door open to public support for this project. “This lack of announcement is scandalous”, comments Lorette Philippot: “The government must immediately commit to not granting public funding to the Arctic LNG 2 project and must put an end to all export funding for new fossil fuel projects, as the United Kingdom, which will host the COP26 in a few days, has already done”.
Marie Cohuet, spokesperson for Alternatiba Paris, concludes: “While the latest IPCC report this summer was another deafening wake-up call for action, the French government is still resigning today, preferring rhetoric to real political measures. Sticking to vague and distant commitments on achieving carbon neutrality or alignment with the Paris Agreement will not be enough in the face of the addiction of finance to oil and gas. Neither will preaching the good word once a year. The exit from fossil fuels must be an obligation, not an option. We call on the government to guarantee in law the end of all financial support from banks, insurers and investors, both public and private, for oil and gas expansion.
Friends of the Earth France and Reclaim Finance have published a press kit (in french) dedicated to this issue ahead of Climate Finance Day and COP26. They will also issue a press release analyzing the Climate Finance Day announcements at the end of the day.