Major banks commit to carbon neutrality by 2050

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 22 2021 08:37 AM

The Eiffel Tower is surrounded by a small-particle haze which hangs above the skyline in Paris, France, December 9, 2016 as the City of Light experienced the worst air pollution in a decade. Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters/File Photo

PARIS - A group of 43 international banks including sector heavyweights have joined a UN-convened pact to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, the world body said Wednesday.

The move, however, failed to impress climate campaigners who say it is not enough.

Bringing together household names like Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, the "Net Zero Banking Alliance" members vowed to make greenhouse gas emissions from their lending and investment portfolios "align with pathways to net-zero by 2050 or sooner" with regularly updated intermediate goals.

"All targets will be regularly reviewed to ensure consistency with the latest science," the United Nations' finance for the environment initiative UNEP FI said in a statement.

HSBC boss Noel Quinn said it was "essential" for banks to finance the green transition, adding that "we have to establish a robust and transparent framework for monitoring progress... and we want to set that standard for the banking industry."

The group will also be a founding member of a sector-wide initiative -- the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ) -- chaired by former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance.

"GFANZ will work to mobilize the trillions of dollars necessary to build a global zero emissions economy and deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement" signed by the world's governments in 2015, UNEP FI said.

Carney himself called the alliance "the breakthrough in mainstreaming climate finance the world economy needs" and "the gold standard for net zero commitments".

GFANZ's naming for Glasgow refers to the COP26 climate change conference scheduled to be held in Scotland's biggest city in November.

As well as banks, UNEP FI said major global insurers and reinsurers were working on a similar project dubbed the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance.

But Reclaim Finance, an NGO that analyses the impact of activities of financial institutions, sees the move as a "diversion".

"It's one of multiple initiatives and it's becoming difficult to follow every detail," Reclaim Finance director Lucie Pinson told AFP.

The alliance commits banks to set targets for 2030 within 18 months of joining -- too late for Pinson, who also lamented that the commitments do not take into account the issuing of bonds and shares.

"This could make a lot of noise with little to show for it," she said.

In a report, Reclaim Finance took issue Wednesday with the climate records of 29 European and US asset managers with portfolios totalling $34 trillion, saying less than half have a public policy to phase out coal.

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