12 Apr Environmental organizations urge Santander to take action against climate change at its Shareholders’ Meeting
Different environmental organizations took part today in Banco Santander’s Shareholders’ Meeting to urge the Bank’s management to adopt urgent and specific measures to combat climate risks and to establish stricter criteria when financing activities harmful to the environment, such as those related to the emission of GHG (Greenhouse Gases). The organizations IIDMA (International Institute of Law and Environment) and Fundacja Rozwój TAK-Odkrywki NIE, in collaboration with BankTrack and ShareAction, have asked the Bank’s Board about its financing of projects related to fossil fuels, something that contradicts its climate policy, aligned with the objective of containing global warming below 1.5º established in the goals of the Paris Agreement, an urgent need, as the report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned. They have also warned that the bank’s non-financial information statement should include more data, in line with Law 11/2018 on Non-Financial Information and Diversity, and with the requirements of the TCFD (Working Group on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure), which involve measuring climate risk and including detailed information on the current and foreseeable effects of activities, among others.
In this sense, the organizations explained Santander’s relationship with the Polish energy company PGE, the most polluting coal company in Europe, and the Polish bank BZ WBK, which finances companies whose main business is coal. These activities jeopardise Santander’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. In order to ensure compliance, Santander Group must introduce criteria that prohibit the financing of companies that generate more than 30% of the energy with coal.
The banking sector must make firm commitments to achieve a transition to a low-carbon economy and must include climate risks in its business strategies. To be consistent in its fight against climate change, Santander should rigorously assess climate risks in all corporate activities within its group and reflect them in detail in its non-financial reports, as required by the new regulations. The current state of non-financial information also devotes a chapter to compliance with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) of the 2030 Agenda but does not specify the targets of the SDGs to which it is contributing, or the indicators followed to measure them, both key aspects that should be specified.
Santander Group has recently updated its sectoral policies, including energy, a sector in which the entity markets financial products and services. However, this update is not enough, as it does not include ambitious criteria that prevent the financing of activities as harmful to the climate system as the production of electricity from coal. Furthermore, although the statement of non-financial information provides examples of financing sustainable projects, it does not include information on the financing granted to fossil fuel projects in 2018. Coal is one of the main causes of climate change, and its emissions are linked to serious health impacts: different studies account for more than 7,600 premature deaths across Europe and 560 in Spain by 2016*.
Greig Aitken, Climate Campaigner at BankTrack, said: “Our research shows that over the last three years, since the Paris climate agreement was signed, Santander has provided coal power companies with more than $600 million in financing, and this financing has been consistent every year. The bank must now take urgent steps to reduce not only its financing for coal but also for other fossil fuel sectors. As the impacts of climate change become increasingly acute, Santander’s consistent support for the fossil fuel industry is disgraceful and completely untenable”.
“Banco Santander must immediately stop all new loans to companies such as PGE, which generate more than 90% of their energy from coal combustion” said Kuba Gogolewski, of Polish Foundation “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE” – In fact, this threshold should be much lower and exclude all companies that generate more than 30% of their energy from coal. Banco Santander also must terminate the provision of other financial services to these types of companies, including assistance with the issuance of corporate bonds”.
“After a detailed analysis of the state of non-financial information that Santander submits to its AGM, we are concerned that stricter criteria has not been included in line with the Law and the recommendations of the TFCD, and specifically concerning information related to the fight against climate change. We therefore believe that Santander should review its policies in order to bring them fully into line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Also, the state of non-financial information provides fundamental information on action in environmental and climate, among others, so it is extremely important to follow the requirements of current regulations and, at the same time, stop financing the coal sector” said Ana Barreira, director of IIDMA.
Sam Hayward, project officer at ShareAction, said: “Santander’s new energy policy has left the door open to coal expansion in Europe and abroad. With renewables inevitably becoming cheaper and legislation clamping down on coal, the bank’s continued support of the dying coal sector goes against the interests of its shareholders, and the economy as a whole. Santander’s coal policy is not fit for purpose”.