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After an intense year of campaigning and monitoring of coal banks, the Paris COP21 is now over and with it the first phase of our Paris Pledge campaign.
So, besides thanking you for your support and ongoing interest, we'd like to give you a quick update on outcomes of the campaign so far, and set out some next steps for coal banks after the Paris Agreement issued last weekend.
Six months after the official launch of the Paris Pledge campaign this summer, the initiative has been supported by 166 organisations and more than 10,000 individuals around the world, including the likes of Greenpeace, 350.org and Oxfam International, all sending one simple message to banks that it is time to quit coal. And groups like Friends of the Earth in France, urgewald in Germany and Rainforest Action Network in the US used the Pledge as part of their own campaigning.
And so far the Paris Pledge campaign has resulted in:
21 small and ethical banks signing up to the Paris Pledge - they have all reaffirmed their commitment to stay away from coal financing in any shape or form
Nine international banks taking first steps out of coal and moving - at a variety of speeds - in the right direction.
On October 9, activists groups marched from Times Square to Morgan Stanley´s global headquarter where they planned to send a loud and clear message: DROP COAL.
On September 10, Les Amis de la Terre/FoE France visited a Parisian Crédit Agricole branch to push the bank to withdraw from the Plomin C coal power project in Croatia.
On November 24, urgewald delivered 6970 signed postcards to Deutsche Bank´s headquarters urging the banks to Do the Paris Pledge and quit coal.
The twenty-one signatories of the Paris Pledge, committing to stay clear of coal financing.
2015 has seen many firsts in the ‘Banks: Quit Coal!' campaign which started in 2011. Momentum has really picked up, and we are seeing more and more successful outcomes which are vital in the fight against climate change and the struggles endured by thousands of local communities around the world who find their lives tarnished by the effects of coal every day.
Here are some of the year's memorable moves:
The three largest French banks - BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale - committed to not finance any of the coal projects being recklessly proposed in the region of the Galilee coal basin in Australia, dubbed the world's second biggest ‘carbon bomb'.
Also in Australia, Standard Chartered and Commonwealth Bank both withdrew from financing the Carmichael mega mine project, bringing to 14 the number of big banks who have said ‘No' to financing Adani's climate-cidal plans there.
Big bank ATMs for highly destructive mountaintop removal (MTR) coal exploitation in the US have continued to close this year - many more banks, including Barclays and ING, announced they were cutting their MTR finance, notably around the bank AGM season in May, when BankTrack and our partners mobilised to advocate directly to bank shareholders.
A number of commercial banks have now adopted new financing policies which completely exclude the direct financing of coal projects, and in some cases coal companies. Crédit Agricole, Société Générale and BNP Paribas announced they will no longer finance coal mining projects, while Natixis and ING have also put an end to their direct financing of new coal plants.
There have never been so many meaningful moves by banks on coal. However, given the climate urgency we find ourselves in, some perspective on these bank moves is required. Our recent report ‘The Coal Test', published during the Paris climate negotiations, has captured the ‘snail's pace' rate of progress as major international banks finally get around to reducing their support for the climate's number one enemy.
Infographic from The Coal Test report
Where next after the Paris Agreement?
The agreement reached and finalised on Saturday 12 December in Paris may have a widely acknowledged array of weaknesses and concerning shortcomings, but its very realisation is a signal change in the climate debate - and it will have huge consequences, including for banks which are still committed to supporting the coal industry.
Yes, the negative aspects of the Paris Agreement are clear enough, most notably:
it contains no mandatory objectives for emissions reductions and no timeline for when emissions have to peak;
the current voluntary commitments made by the nations participating at COP21 still put the world on a path to 3 degrees or more of warming;
there is no clear commitment ensuring climate finance support from developed countries to developing countries at a minimum of 100 billion dollars per year, to cover the costs of addressing climate change, will materialise; and
compensation for loss and damage to the world's most vulnerable nations failed to appear in the final agreement text.
However, let's not forget that the agreement commits the 195 signatory nations to "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels".
The Paris agreement also commits all 195 nations to "making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development." The 1.5°C reference sends a clear signal above all - this is the reality we are facing. And let's be clear, the challenges are great.
As ‘The Coal Gap', a Climate Action Tracker report published this month, tells us, even without any new coal plants, by 2030 emissions from coal-fired power generation would still be more than 150% higher than what is consistent with holding warming below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. The trouble is, 2,440 coal-fired power plants are currently being planned around the world.
Banks will be asked to provide financing for these projects. Meeting the aims set out in the Paris Agreement simply means, though, that commercial banks must immediately stop all project finance for new coal, as Natixis and ING have already committed to do, as a first step. Bank financing for existing coal operations must then be quickly phased out, before reducing financial support for other fossil fuels.
Some banks - such as Société Générale, BNP Paribas and various Australian banks - have recently started to reference 2°C as a guiding principle for their future financing activities. They need to go further and adopt the 1.5°C target and implement what this entails - concretely - in their business activity: deep cuts in fossil fuels financing, starting with coal.
Coal bank campaigning in 2016
BankTrack will continue to track and chase in 2016, more than ever. We'll be monitoring the implementation of the commitments, mentioned above, by big banks and look to ensure that their financing is held to account to be in line with the 1.5°C pathway.
More than ever there is absolutely no room for dodgy coal deals to get off the ground with banking sector support. We're thinking of projects such as the Rampal coal plant in Bangladesh, the Batang coal plant in Indonesia and the Plomin C coal plant in Croatia, not to mention the ongoing saga surrounding the Galilee coal basin in Australia. We will continue to campaign to prevent bank financing of these atrocious projects.
We'll be there to remind the banks of the climate urgency, and that they will need to do a lot more than their new, voluntary Climate Principles if they actually want to stop bankrolling climate change.
BankTrack and partners will keep pushing to get banks out of coal. We look forward to your continuing support for the next phase of the Paris Pledge campaign.