After committing to net zero by joining the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), financial institutions have continued pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the companies developing fossil fuels, according to a new report published by a group of NGOs. As business and finance leaders meet in Davos for the World Economic Forum, the NGOs call on GFANZ’s sectoral alliances to insist their members stop supporting fossil fuel expansion. If they are serious about meeting their commitment to reach net zero by 2050 following a 1.5°C pathway, action is needed now to align in the short term with this science-based climate imperative.
The report analyzes support for the world’s largest fossil fuel developers from the financial institutions who are members of the sectoral alliances. It finds that:
- Since joining the alliance, 56 of the biggest banks in the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) have provided US$270 billion to 102 major fossil fuel expanders, via 134 loans and 215 underwriting transactions;
- 58 of the largest members of the Net Zero Asset Managers initiative (NZAM) held at least US$847 billion of stocks and bonds in 201 major fossil fuel developers as of September 2022;
- Only a handful of the financial institutions have adopted policies that meaningfully restrict finance to new fossil fuel projects and companies developing new fossil supply projects since joining GFANZ.
In total, 229 of the world’s largest fossil fuel developers received finance from the 161 GFANZ members covered in this report, which will support them to develop new coal power plants, mines, ports and other infrastructure, as well as new oil and gas fields and pipelines and LNG terminals. These new fossil fuel projects are incompatible with the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, as confirmed in the latest International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, published in October 2022. They will lock in greenhouse gas emissions for decades, despite the adoption of decarbonization targets by some GFANZ members.
Lucie Pinson, Executive Director and founder of Reclaim Finance says: “The science is very clear: we need to stop developing new coal, oil and gas projects as soon as possible if we want to meet our climate goals and avoid a worst-case scenario. Yet, it is business as usual for most banks and investors who continue to support fossil fuel developers without any restrictions, despite their high-profile commitments to carbon neutrality. Their greenwashing is all the more damaging as it casts doubt on the sincerity of all net zero commitments and undermines the efforts of those who are truly acting for the climate.”
Even though ending finance for fossil fuel expansion is clearly essential to meet the GFANZ commitment to keeping warming under 1.5°C, none of its member alliances have language that meaningfully addresses the issue in their guidelines.
The UN Race to Zero campaign – of which all financial institutions became signatories when joining GFANZ alliances – sets criteria for net-zero aligned financial institutions and other non-state actors. Since June 2022, these criteria have included an end to financing of new fossil fuel projects. While GFANZ has stopped demanding that its members join the UN Race to Zero initiative, the sectoral alliances remain Race to Zero partners and so committed to complying with its criteria. The November 2022 report of the UN’s High Level Expert Group on net zero has highlighted that credible net zero pledges must include an end to financial support for fossil fuel expansion.
Reclaim Finance Senior Analyst Paddy McCully said: “GFANZ members are acting as climate arsonists. They’ve pledged to achieve net zero but are continuing to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into fossil fuel developers. GFANZ and its member alliances will only be credible once they up their game and insist that their members help bring a rapid end to the era of coal, oil and fossil gas expansion.”
Citigroup, one of the founder members of the NZBA, approved 136 transactions that directly provided and facilitated US$30 billion in capital to fossil fuel developers, including Saudi Aramco, QatarEnergy, and Gazprom since joining in April 2021. Barclays, also a founder member of the NZBA, has approved 58 transactions that have directly provided and facilitated almost US$9 billion in capital to fossil fuel developers since joining in April 2021. Royal Bank of Canada has provided almost US$10 billion in capital to oil and gas developers since joining in November 2021.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager and a member of NZAM, has holdings of US$191 billion in 173 different fossil fuel developers, with 89% by value in oil and gas. French asset manager Amundi has holdings of US$17 billion in fossil fuel developers.