BNP Paribas cracks down on mining clients exposed to coal

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BNP Paribas SA is imposing new financing restrictions as part of an updated policy around how to treat clients in the mining industry.

The European Union’s biggest bank will no longer provide financing to projects dedicated to the extraction of metallurgical coal, according to an emailed statement late on Wednesday.

“This new commitment is part of BNP Paribas’ efforts to align its credit portfolio in the steel sector with its net zero commitment,” the bank said in the email. The decision follows on from targets announced by the bank that are intended to reduce the intensity of carbon emissions financed across oil and gas, electricity generation, automotive, steel, aluminum and cement, it said.

BNP has made access to financing increasingly difficult for clients with large carbon footprints, as it faces an ever tougher regulatory and activist environment. The lender remains the subject of a landmark lawsuit by nonprofits, who allege it isn’t living up to its environmental obligations under French law.

“BNP Paribas recalls that since 2020 it has been committed to a path towards a complete exit from the financing of the entire value chain of companies linked to thermal coal by 2030 in Europe and in the OECD countries, and by 2040 in the rest of the world,” the bank said.

At the same time, BNP has overtaken its peers to become the biggest provider of bonds for green projects, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The developments have coincided with new requirements in Europe. The European Central Bank has warned about 20 lenders that it will impose fines unless they address shortcomings in their management of climate risk, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. And last month, the European Banking Authority said it was revising the framework that sets industrywide capital requirements to better incorporate ESG, and warned lenders they’ll need to adjust the risk assessments they conduct of their clients.

BNP’s announcement comes as climate activists increasingly name and shame financial firms that support expansion in the fossil fuel industry. A report published on Thursday by French nonprofit Reclaim Finance said that since 2016, after the Paris climate agreement was signed, the world’s biggest banks have provided $557 billion in finance to the 50 biggest developers in the metallurgical coal sector.

Though the solutions to decarbonize steel exist, “financial players continue to add fuel to the climate fire, by financially supporting the development of new mines,” said Cynthia Rocamora, an industry campaigner at Reclaim Finance. “This is a threat to the economy as these new mines risk becoming stranded assets, and it is a disaster for the climate. Financial players must urgently adopt policies to stop the expansion of metallurgical coal.”

(By Greg Ritchie)


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