pressure mounts after official notification to BNP Paribas

Published on January 26, 2023

Now, thanks to the vigilante duty of NGOs, they have decided to attack big companies. BNP Paribas was warned to stop financing new fossil fuel projects after Total Energies’ trial in December. Two days before the deadline, the bank published new commitments to reduce its oil and gas loans. But it is still not enough for the NGOs who want to sue the bank.

This Thursday, January 26, is the deadline for a formal notice under the duty of vigilance law filed by three NGOs, Oxfam, Notre Affaire à tous and Les Amis de la Terre, against BNP Paribas three months ago. . In force in France since 2017, it obliges multinational companies, including financial institutions, to publish and implement a vigilance plan to identify environmental risks, based in particular on the OECD Guidelines.

The organizations were asking the bank to stop supporting new fossil fuel projects. They show that BNP Paribas is Europe’s leading financier of fossil fuels, fifth in the world, with $55 billion lent between 2016 and 2021. It is also a leading global financier of eight American and European oil and gas companies (TotalEnergies, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Eni, Repsol and Equinor).

“Our message is that we need less oil production”

Two days before the deadline, the bank published new oil and gas climate commitments as part of its alignment trajectory with the goals of the Paris Agreement, reinforcing commitments already made last spring. By 2030, BNP Paribas has set a target of reducing gas production and production debt by 30% and oil production and production debt by 80%, and reducing outstanding oil production and production financing to less than €1 billion. , compared to 5 billion euros currently.

“For that, we rely on the turnover of our customers. This means that those who have a large stake in oil exploration and production will see the amount of their loans decrease dramatically. Because our message is that we need less and less oil exploration and production and to a lesser extent gas”, Details with Novethic Laurence Pessez, CSR Director at BNP Paribas since 2010.Our portfolio will evolve in line with our customers’ commitments in the energy transition.”he adds.

This is not enough for the NGOs, who are now considering taking legal action against the bank. This could be the world’s first climate dispute involving a financial player. “BNP Paribas has no new response to our demand not to finance new fossil projects as of today, based on the recommendations of the International Energy Agency (IEA). There is also a deadline of 2030. In addition, stocks and bonds are widely used in the Oil and Gas sector. forms of financial activity are not affected by these exceptions”, Lorette Philippot, finance and fossil fuel campaign manager for Friends of the Earth France, reacts.

“We can’t wait any longer”

At the center of the conflict lies the support of Total Energies, which carries the highly controversial and criticized Eacop mega-oil pipeline project in Uganda and Tanzania, among other things, for its environmental as well as human impacts. But BNP Paribas is not budging.”Stopping funding for a player like Total Energies, which has invested in the maintenance and security of the existing system and in renewables, would mean doing so without a key player with the leverage to make the energy transition successful.” Laurence Pessez says.

The NGOs at the start of the official announcement don’t see it that way and continue to pressure banking giants, gas fuels and agribusinesses to accelerate their transformation. “We have to note that the positions of certain NGOs have become more radical and hindered constructive dialogue.“, laments Laurence Pessez. “We are not closed to dialogue, Lorette Philippot answers. On the other hand, given the acceleration of climate change and the severity of extreme events, we cannot afford to wait any longer. We have been asking in vain for ten years. That’s why we chose to use other means to hear.”.

Dozens of cases related to vigilante duty are still ongoing. The most successful is targeting TotalEnergies specifically for the Eacop project. The first court hearing on the merits was held in December. The consultation will be given on February 28. It will be closely scrutinized.

Concepcion Alvarez @conce1

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