Coming out of COP26, several banks announced commitment to net-zero by 2050. They sound good, but unfortunately the announcements left enough wiggle room for many banks to continue “business as usual.” Years of people power leading to COP resulted in some of the world’s largest financial institutions finally acknowledging their outsize role in fueling climate change. But it’s clear that we need to keep up the pressure until they fully acknowledge that net-zero means absolutely no oil and gas expansion.
Here’s a roundup of announcements from Standard Chartered, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Société Générale, NatWest, HSBC, BBVA, and La Banque Postale.
After sustained campaigning from Fridays for Future, MarketForces UK and investor pressure, Standard Chartered announced new 2030 interim targets. The company promised for the first time to stop financing coal expansion, and set expectations for oil and gas companies to have Paris-aligned strategies by 2022.
Lucie Pinson, Executive Director of Reclaim Finance said: “Standard Chartered is finally acknowledging the need to stop supporting expansion in the coal sector. What could have been a big step forward is, however, undone by the gaping loophole in the policy. Having channelled $10 bln to the coal sector between October 2018 and October 2020, the bank has given itself enough wriggle room to protect its interests in giant coal companies like Glencore, which is currently developing new coal mines in Australia and South Africa)…if Standard Chartered is genuinely intent on requiring Paris-aligned strategies, then it should clarify that this means a clear stop to new oil and gas fields, in line with the IEA’s position.”
During COP26, Morgan Stanley announced new 2030 targets as part of its commitment to net-zero by 2050. Morgan Stanley’s interim targets are stronger than that of JPMorgan Chase, but Morgan Stanley uses an intensity-based metric rather than an absolute emissions target. This means that the bank could meet its “targets” while still increasing absolute emissions. The world – mostly wealthy countries – is already on track to use up our carbon emissions budget if we are to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming. Given that, intensity metrics just won’t cut it.
Alison Kirsch, Research and Policy Manager at Rainforest Action Network, said, “It is encouraging to see Morgan Stanley acknowledge that fossil fuels need to be significantly reduced by 2050. However, Morgan Stanley’s targets sidestep the IEA’s key finding that net zero means no fossil fuel expansion. It’s past time for intensity-only targets. We need absolute emissions cuts and clear client criteria: no support for companies expanding fossil fuels and a clear date for requiring clients to exit the sector.”
JP Morgan Chase
Ahead of COP26, JPMorgan Chase – the world’s worst banker of climate chaos – announced that it was joining the UN’s Net Zero Banking Alliance. But that announcement was not accompanied by a commitment to end fossil fuel expansion financing, nor was it accompanied by any improvements in its coal policy. Like Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan uses intensity-based metrics for its carbon reduction goals for clients. This means that JPMorgan can continue business as usual as it profits off the climate crisis.
Ben Cushing, fossil-free finance campaign manager at Sierra Club, said, “Without a plan to stop funding the expansion of fossil fuels, commitments like this are completely inadequate.”
Swiss bank Credit Suisse announced an update to its coal policy during COP 26. The additional commitment to exclusion of coal mine and plant developers is an important improvement. But the policy is littered with vague, undefined phrases like “credible transition strategy” and allows for large exceptions that would allow the bank to continue financing the companies it claims to be excluding.
Reclaim Finance said, “Without any precise definitions, this, in fact, could mean that the bank will still be able to provide financing to some companies heavily involved in the coal sector…Credit Suisse must now urgently clarify its exceptions, use the right metric of measurement (power generation and not revenues), and require remaining companies to adopt a plan to exit coal at the latest by 2030 in Europe/OECD and 2040 worldwide, or face exclusion.”
During COP26, French bank Société Générale announced slight changes to its climate policy. For example, the bank extended its exclusion policy to Amazon oil and extra heavy oil. Following the herd with the other major banks, however, it did not commit to end financing for oil and gas expansion. The IEA was clear that ending oil and gas expansion is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Reclaim Finance said, “For the record, Société Générale was the 19th biggest supporter of key companies involved in developing new fossil fuel projects from 2016 to 2020. Société Générale cannot realistically boast of its net zero pledge while supporting new oil and gas developments – it’s a contradiction in terms.”
NatWest, a sponsor of the COP26 summit and a member of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, has just announced new measures regarding its support to the coal sector. While its exclusion of companies with coal expansion plans is welcome progress, NatWest has missed another opportunity to clarify what requirements are expected from other coal customers to remain in the bank’s portfolio. Natwest need to condition further support on the adoption of a Paris-aligned asset-based coal exit plan. The bank must also acknowledge the key finding of the IEA’s NZ report: namely, that net zero means ending the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, including oil and gas.
NatWest recommitted to a “full phase-out from coal by 2030”. While the bank is finally committing not to support companies with coal power or coal mining expansion plans, it’s unclear how the bank intends to achieve its 2030 target.
Jeanne Martine, Senior Campaign Manager at ShareAction, said of NatWest’s announcement, “However, whilst we congratulate the bank for taking a strong stance on coal developers, a close look at their new coal policy suggests that the bank defines this as not financing companies that get more than 15% of revenues from coal – an incredibly high and inappropriate threshold. As a main sponsor of COP26 we urge NatWest to commit to a real and full phase out from coal – with no exceptions.”
Meanwhile, a few days after the announcement about HSBC joining the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that HSBC coordinated efforts to try to water down net zero commitments, scrap mandatory science-based targets, and delay the deadline to set targets for some carbon-intensive sectors.
Adam McGibbon, UK Campaign Lead at Market Forces, said, “HSBC’s public rhetoric on climate change can’t be trusted – their behaviour in private, lobbying to weaken climate action, is their true position. Banks like HSBC know what the International Energy Agency has said – ‘net zero by 2050’ means no new fossil fuel expansion, from this year. So it’s staggering that a bank signed up to that target is doing everything it can to make sure that target can’t be met.”
During COP26, Spanish bank BBCA announced decarbonization targets for new economic sectors by 2030. However, like JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, the bank is using intensity based metrics rather than absolute metrics. This means that the bank can actually increase their overall emissions while at the same time claiming straight-faced that it’s meeting its decarbonization targets.
Reclaim Finance’s take: “BBVA does not address the elephant in the room: fossil fuel expansion. The bank recognizes the IEA’s net zero scenario but does not apply its core principle: limiting global warming below 1.5°C means no new investments in oil and gas fields.”
La Banque Postale
Lots of major banks released their policies on financing oil and gas ahead of COP26. But none of their plans are enough to meet what is required to avoid further escalation of climate disaster. All except La Banque Postale. They were one of the first major institutions to commit to the change required to keep to under 1.5°C of warming. French bank Banque Postale is stopping all financing to the oil and gas sectors by 2030. And they’re immediately stopping all current finances going to potential oil and gas development.
Campaigners at Reclaim Finance and Friends of the Earth France said:
“If all banks were to copy and paste La Banque Postale’s policy, the climate would be largely spared.”