Fool’s Gold – €16 Bn For Europe’s Biggest Climate Polluters

Eight financial institutions have handed Europe’s most polluting utilities almost €16 billion in support since the Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015, a new briefing by Europe Beyond Coal and its partners BankTrack, Foundation Development YES – Open-Pit Mines NO, Friends of the Earth France, IIDMA, Re:Common and Urgewald has found.

Fool’s Gold – the Financial Institutions Bankrolling Europe’s Most Coal-dependent Utilities (1) ranks European financial institutions for their exposure to coal, and shows that the Norwegian Government Pension Fund is the most exposed to coal assets with €2.29 billion in shares and bonds, followed by Crédit Agricole with €1.04 billionDeutsche Bank with €0.69 billion and Standard Life Aberdeen with €0.58 billion.

On the creditor side, UniCredit was the largest bank providing €3.13 billion in loans and underwriting services. Santander follows it with €2.99 billionBarclays with €2.71 billion and BNP Paribas with €2.57 billion. All up this “exposed eight” have handed the coal industry as much financial support in the last three years as the European Union has allocated to its space programme for 2021-2027(2).

“After the Paris Agreement you would have to be living on another planet to think that investing any money in coal is a good idea. Some financial institutions apparently think they do operate in a different world, and are willing to risk their reputations and financial returns on it. In reality here on Earth: any financial ties to polluting utilities that aren’t being used to push for a coal phase out are a problem for everyone. Financial institutions have a responsibility to help secure a 2030 coal phase out in Europe from utilities, and if they cannot then to cut all financial ties with them,” said Kaarina Kolle, Finance and Utility Coordinator at Europe Beyond Coal.

Coal utilities enjoying continued support from these financial institutions include RWE, PGE, EPH, Fortum/Uniper, ČEZ and Enel/Endesa. Together they are responsible for more than half of all EU coal-based CO2 emissions and health impacts from polluted air. Shutting down their coal plants by 2030 at the absolute latest is necessary to fulfill Europe’s climate commitments.

“The amount of capital that is still being directed to maintain coal in the European power mix is staggering. But not a single investor or creditor in their right mind should think that coal has a future. The reality is: What was once considered to be a golden investment is now a foolhardy one. Those sticking to coal will be left with nothing but stranded assets,” said Katrin Ganswindt, Urgewald Climate Campaigner.