Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas, laid out the details of the French bank’s latest commitments in an interview with newspaper Les Échos. He advocates a determined yet gradual approach.
Banks are on the front line when it comes to accelerating the energy transition. As the leading bank in the eurozone with its €2 trillion in assets, BNP Paribas intends to play its part to the fullest.
“COP21 marks a tipping point for the entire industry,” explained Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, Director and Chief Executive Officer of BNP Paribas, in an interview with Les Échos. “Since 2015, we have invested a great deal of time in all the issues affecting the energy transition at our management committees. We have incorporated them within our strategic plan as an important, if not essential, area of focus. And we are making sure that they are applied throughout our business lines, adapting how we work and contacting all of our clients, from large corporations to institutional investors and private individuals.”
With that in mind, the Group has taken steps to keep its distance from the most polluting sources of energy. It has committed to ceasing all funding of shale oil and gas, oil from tar sands and Arctic oil drilling. This means, for example, that it will not be financing the Texas LNG shale gas export terminal in the United States. These new measures complement the Group’s previous decisions to reduce its support for coal mines and coal-fired power generation, to increase its total financing for renewable energy to €15 billion by 2020, and to set aside €100 million for investment in start-ups working on innovative solutions for energy transition.
“While these decisions may be the most obvious, they are not the easiest to make. It has an impact on our teams and our revenue, but we can handle it. It is crucial that we turn away from players who are turning their backs on climate change and, instead, support those who are shifting. Bear in mind, however, that this can only be achieved with a gradual approach: we cannot all make this energy transition at the same pace,” explained Mr Bonnafé. BNP Paribas only supports electricity producers who follow a strategy of reducing the percentage of coal in their mix.
It is crucial that we turn away from players who are turning their backs on climate change and, instead, support those who are shifting.
The Group has also doubled its financing goal for renewable energy to €15 billion by 2020. “But we will most likely reach €20 billion,” predicts the Director and CEO. “We will also be investing €100 million in start-ups specialising in the energy transition, for example in the fields of storage or energy efficiency. The transition to wind or solar power is absolutely vital, but it will not be enough alone. What we need to do is develop new approaches, branching in all possible directions, to be compatible with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.”
The Group has also opened up its green financing solutions to private individuals, offering a 1% loan for buying a new vehicle eligible for the environmental bonus. Its management subsidiary, BNP Paribas Asset Management, will be launching a savings fund to finance European SMEs active in the energy transition.
A powerful wave
Additionally, the Group will be joining the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which supports innovation in favour of developing clean energy. Together with the Gates Foundation, it plans to create the One Planet Fellowship – a $15 million, five-year programme to support research into adaptation to climate change in Africa.
“The wave is extremely powerful: nobody can ignore it. Banks are in a position to foster a multiplier effect in the construction of the low-carbon economy. They must fully commit to this transition and ask that their clients undertake sustainable, gradual efforts. In other words, efforts that are within their reach – otherwise, you risk plunging entire economies into the red. In particular, we need to reach out to emerging markets, which face a more challenging equation,” Mr Bonnafé concluded.
Banks are in a position to foster a multiplier effect in the construction of the low-carbon economy.