BNP Paribas and the Climate Crisis

Partial data on the involvement of BNP Paribas Group in the intensification of the climate crisis 

Following mounting pressure from civil society, going as far as issuing a summons for failure to comply with due diligence, the French bank BNP Paribas attempted to make a shock announcement at the beginning of 2023 by presenting, among other things, in its new climate plan: “the cessation of financing dedicated to the development of new oil and gas fields”.

It is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is far from enough. Does this mean, for example, that BNP Paribas will not invest directly (dedicated funding) in one of TotalEnergies’ forthcoming climate bombs, such as the EACOP pipeline? Yes. Does this mean that the bank will not support TotalEnergies with loans or bond issues worth millions, thus enabling the firm to detonate its bomb? No, and that is where the problem lies. In order to have a credible policy, the bank should gradually divest from companies that continue to expand fossil fuels, but BNP Paribas seems to be doped on fossil fuels.


Massive investments in fossil fuels despite promises

In the Banking On Climate Chaos report published in April 2023, BNP Paribas appears as the world’s fourth-largest financier of the development of fossil fuels between 2016 and 2022. In particular, it is the world’s leading financier of the nine major European and American companies (BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, Eni, Exxon, Repsol, Shell et TotalEnergies), having lent them $45.4 billion since 2016.

However, BNP Paribas has been a member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA) since its creation in April 2021. As a result, it is committed to reducing its exposure to credit for upstream oil and gas activities by 12% by 2025, and to reducing the outstanding financing of oil extraction and production by 80% by 2030, which it is currently failing to do, according to the report by the NGO Reclaim Finance, co-published by the Collectif BreakFree.


NZBA: Net Zero Action for BNP Paribas

Since joining the NZBA, the bank has provided nearly USD 8 billion to expansionist companies in coal (4 companies supported to the tune of USD 900 million), oil and gas (15 companies).

Just a month after the launch of the NZBA, BNP Paribas even joined four other banks in a massive, syndicated loan of $10 billion to Saudi Aramco, the company with the largest oil and gas expansion projects in the world. Almost a year later, these same banks helped provide Aram-co with a $14 billion revolving loan.


Human Rights Violation: The Saudi Aramco Case

In June 2023, the bank was finally singled out by the OHCHR for its financial relations with Saudi Aramco. Antoine Sire, the CEO of BNP Paribas, argues against this in his reply, referring precisely to the fact that it does not have financing dedicated to the former expansion. However, the UN’s warning is clear: “The companies that have helped finance Saudi Aramco’s activities are contributing to human rights impacts related to climate change, contrary to their own human rights responsibilities (…) Financial companies may be directly linked to adverse human rights impacts through their business relationships (such as the provision of finance); they may also contribute to human rights abuses through their own operations and actions.”

The CEO also defends himself by highlighting the bank’s involvement in the NZBA, but we now know that this is largely due to green washing. The final answer is that “it is a question of finding a transitional path that involves taking into account what science tells us to combat global warming, while taking into account the acceptability of the measures to people, the time to change industry, the global energy situation, the diversity of public policies from one part of the world to another.”  It has to be said that this speech almost resembles that of Patrick Pouyanné, CEO of TotalEnergies, who said earlier this month to a stunned climatologist: “I know and respect the advice of scientists. The problem is that there is real life (…).” Not surprisingly, the fossil king and his major investor share the same rhetoric, trying in vain to drown the fish in the oil pond.