The big Belgian banks have invested some 40 billion euros in fossil fuels over the last two years according to the calculation of the Climate Coalition in its latest study on the subject, reported De Standaard and Le Soir on Wednesday. BNP Paribas, the parent company of BNP Paribas Fortis, represents three quarters of the total (30.37 billion) and the Dutch group ING represents 7 billion. Then come the Belgian banks KBC and Belfius (via its asset manager, Candriam), with 2.22 billion and 679 million euros respectively.
Via a national campaign in the form of an online petition (www.bankeroute.be), the national platform, which brings together 62 members of the environmental movement, development, trade unions and socio-cultural organisations, is calling on the Belgian banking sector to stop acting in this way. In addition to climate impacts, these investments represent a financial risk and threaten the viability of these banks.
These investments took place with the 100 largest companies in the fossil energy sector, including companies with the largest reserves of coal and oil (in the top 25 each time), and electricity companies with the capacity of the highest coal production (top 25 worldwide and in Europe), denounced the Climate Coalition. Nearly half of the 40 billion (19.41 billion) was also destined for the latter type of fossil energy, which is also the most polluting.
“However, science is unanimous: we must absolutely break our dependence on fossil energies if we want to avoid dangerous climate change”, warns Mathieu Soete, a divestment expert at Greenpeace Belgium, for whom banks have a crucial role to play in the “necessary” transition towards an economy and a society with 100% renewable energies.
Finally, according to BlackRock, the largest wealth manager in the world cited by the Climate Coalition, these investments in fuels or fossil fuels represent a danger because they will cost more in the coming years than they will yield.
Even if the BNP Paribas Fortis bank is not directly targeted, the platform points out its importance in the eyes of its parent company and the strategic market it embodies. “The money saved by Belgian savers can be used for the group’s strategies”, said co-chairman Sarah Schlitz, who also points out the responsibility of the Belgian state, a 10% shareholder in the BNP Paribas group.