1145 GMT December 04, 2020
While European and US banks have faced years of pressure from regulators or environmental groups to act on climate change, their role in financing economic activities that destroy biodiversity is also coming under growing scrutiny, Reuters reported.
Portfolio.earth, a network of researchers that published the "Bankrolling Extinction" report, said none of the lenders had adequate systems to limit the impact of their loans on the web of animal and plant life that supports human well-being.
“Banks are starting to realize that if they invest in sectors that cause climate change, that will hurt their returns,” Liz Gallagher, director of portfolio.earth, told Reuters. “Banks need to understand that the same holds true for destroying biodiversity.”
The report found that in 2019, the 50 banks provided loans and underwriting of more than $2.6 trillion to sectors such as industrial farming and fishing, fossil fuels and infrastructure that scientists say are big drivers of biodiversity loss.
Kai Chan, an environmental scientist at the University of British Columbia, and a leading author of a global study published last year that found a million species are at imminent risk of extinction, endorsed the findings.
“Imagine a world in which projects can only raise capital when they have demonstrated that they will contribute meaningfully and positively to restoring the planet’s bounty and a safe climate for all? That’s the future this report envisions and builds toward,” he said.
Bank of America and Citigroup, identified among the 10 biggest lenders, declined to comment, referring Reuters to existing sustainability pledges. BNP Paribas, also ranked highly, said the authors had not contacted it or shared their methodology so it could not comment.
HSBC, also ranked in the top 10, pointed out that it had teamed up in August with climate change advisory firm Pollination Group to create an asset management venture focused on “natural capital”, which seeks to put a value on resources such as water, soil and air to help to protect the environment.