Crédit Agricole, BNP… French banks still attractive to the fossil fuel industry

“Act every day in your interest and that of society,” promises the Crédit Agricole slogan. However, the bank is at the head of the French agencies which were involved in more than half of the loans on the markets issued by the fossil industry in the world between January 2016 and June 2023. With it, BNP Paribas and Société Générale are also among “the most active French establishments (…) in Europe” and “involved in a little more than half of the bond financing operations” of oil and gas giants, details the survey called “Fossil finance” carried out by a consortium of journalists and published Tuesday.

Out of 1,011 billion euros of bonds helping to finance fossil fuels issued since the Paris climate agreement, 521 billion were issued thanks to the assistance of one or more French banks, Crédit Agricole in the lead, ahead of BNP Paribas and Société Générale. In this type of operation, the banks do not lend money directly but advise and assist Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and other TotalEnergies so that they borrow from private investors.

Favorable development

The survey nevertheless suggests “a favorable development: after record years in 2019 and 2020, issuance of “gray” bonds fell significantly in 2021 and 2022”, particularly among French banks whose market share is in decline. “The oil sector has seen its place considerably reduced” in terms of bond financing at BNP Paribas, the bank commented to AFP, which also highlights the growing place of so-called “green” bonds in its portfolio.

“This investigation demonstrates the absolute urgency for banks and investors to adopt policies to restrict their support for the oil and gas sectors, for all financial services provided, including bonds,” responded next to Lara Cuvelier, campaign manager at the NGO Reclaim Finance.

Banking establishments are taking turns making new commitments to limit their impact on climate change. The latest, Société Générale announced on September 18 that it would reduce its exposure to the oil and gas production sector by 50% compared to 2019 by 2025, compared to 20% previously.

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