Climate: BNP takes a small step forward but still fails to meet the scientific consensus
Ahead of its Annual General Meeting on May 16, BNP Paribas has announced new climate commitments.
The bank, under pressure from civil society and the scientific community, seems to recognize that new oil and gas projects are no longer necessary, but once again takes measures that are too weak to truly meet a clear scientific requirement: to stop all support, direct and indirect, for the expansion of all fossil fuels. The NGOs in « The BNP Case » are calling on the bank to take the measure of the climate emergency and will be present, alongside scientists, at its General Meeting next week.
These announcements 1 come at a time when Friends of the Earth France, Notre Affaire à Tous and Oxfam France filed a lawsuit against BNP Paribas on February 23 for failure to comply with its duty of vigilance regarding climate change 2. BNP Paribas is specifying the terms of implementation of its decisions of January 24 3, made in response to NGOs’ formal notice. They also come at a time when scientists 4 and activists have been pressuring the bank for several months now – as they did yesterday in a new wave of actions targeting the BNP group throughout France 5.
BNP Paribas communicated this morning that it had stopped « financing dedicated to the development of new oil and gas fields« . It also specifies the « phasing out [of] financing to non-diversified oil exploration and production players (independent oil companies) which is intended to support oil production« . Translation: BNP Paribas is taking a step in the right direction with regard to its project financing, but is unfortunately failing to respond to a basic and urgent request from the scientific community, echoed by the International Energy Agency and the United Nations High Level Expert Group: no longer support the development of any new oil and gas fields. Because behind these multiple measures and technical details, BNP Paribas will be able to continue to grant new financial services to the companies the most aggressive in the development of fossil fuels.
In the Banking On Climate Chaos report published in April 2023 6, BNP Paribas was the world’s fourth largest financier of fossil fuel expansion between 2016 and 2022. In particular, it is the world’s leading financier of the nine European and American majors 7, having granted them $45.4 billion since 2016.
Lorette Philippot, campaigner at Friends of the Earth France: « BNP pretends to address the pressing issue of oil and gas expansion, but it is only putting its foot on the first step of a long staircase. Behind the tree of the end of its project financing for the development of new oil and gas fields, the forest of its corporate financing remains dense. Today’s commitment would not have prevented BNP Paribas from participating in its recent multi-billion dollar financings for the oil and gas giants BP and Saudi Aramco 8. It will not prevent it from participating in new toxic transactions in the near future, as it has done in the past. »
Behind the announcement effects, BNP Paribas’ policy remains flawed on several main points:
- Projects ar excluded but not of the companies that carry these projects. The measures taken on projects cover « direct » or « dedicated » financing, which is only one tool in the range of financial instruments available to banks to finance companies. Thus, BNP Paribas could continue to make loans or issue new bonds to companies like Total, which are developing new fossil fuel fields.
- When BNP announces the phase out of « financing to non-diversified oil exploration and production players which is intended to support oil production« , not only is this not an immediate exclusion, but it is not a firm company exclusion. The measures taken on companies moreover carefully avoid an exclusion of so-called “diversified” oil and gas majors, such as Total.
- The policy largely spares gas. BNP Paribas is not reviewing its commitments regarding its support for companies active in the gas sector. As already emphasized in its January announcements 3, by creating a two-tier policy between oil and gas, and by stating its plan to support new gas transport (LNG) and power projects, in particular « new generation, low-emission thermal power plants as well as supply security, gas terminals and gas transportation fleets”, BNP is showing that it is not finished with the development of this fossil fuel, whose climate impacts have been repeatedly pointed out by science.
- Key financial services such as bond issues are completely outside BNP Paribas’ policy. Between 2016 and 2022, 37% of the bank’s financing to the fossil fuel industry was related to bond issues, not loans 9. In particular, this is a massive financing lever for the sector’s majors, that are important clients of BNP Paribas.
For Alexandre Poidatz, head of advocacy at Oxfam France: « This is a big step according to BNP, but a small step for humanity. All the bank had to do was to stop lending to companies that open new oil and gas projects, as the Banque Postale has already done, but it refuses once again”.
For Justine Ripoll, campaigns’ manager for Notre Affaire à Tous: « BNP’s announcements illustrate the limits of the voluntary commitments made by banks to respect the Paris Agreement. They can ignore the international standards of vigilance and only agree to meager advances in the facade. Our legal action appears indispensable: the court must force BNP to align its commitments and activities with the scientific consensus. »
Several written questions were submitted yesterday to the BNP Paribas General Meeting, on behalf of the 600 scientists who signed the open letter sent in February 2023 to the bank’s Board of Directors 4, including ten co-authors of IPCC reports – among them Jean Jouzel, Christophe Cassou or Céline Guivarch 10. Representatives of the scientific community and NGOs will also be present at the BNP Paribas General Meeting on Tuesday 16 May to remind the bank of its climate obligations.
BNP précise et renforce ses ambitions en matière de transition énergétique, communiqué de presse de BNP Paribas, 11 mai 2023
The BNP Paribas Case is back: we are officially taking BNP to court!, The BNP Paribas Case, February 23rd 2023
L’Affaire BNP : menacée d’une action en justice, BNP Paribas communique mais ne répond pas aux demandes des ONG, L’Affaire BNP Paribas, 25 janvier 2023
Désobéissance civile : des scientifiques s’attaquent à la BNP, Reporterre, May 10th 2023
BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, Eni, Exxon, Repsol, Shell and Total.
The NGO Reclaim Finance has identified these two transactions. BNP Paribas helped BP issue a $2.5 billion bond on February 9. This transaction took place at a time when the company had recently lowered its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and oil and gas production. BNP also participated in a $4.5 billion bond package issued on February 23 for Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest developer of new oil and gas projects.
Nouveaux chiffres : BNP, meilleure amie des énergies fossiles, Les Amis de la Terre, April 13th 13 2023
BNP et énergies fossiles : à l’AG, les scientifiques posent les questions qui fâchent, blog de Mediapart, May 9th 2023