The NGO Reclaim Finance took an interest in ongoing projects or drilling in the Arctic.
It shows that several French financial players are involved, more or less directly.
The definition of the Arctic zone remains vague, which allows for several interpretations.
“Arctic Predators”. This is how the NGO Reclaim Finance qualifies, in its report published on Thursday, the various companies that are planning or supporting new drilling projects near the North Pole. “Many players in the financial world have promised to protect this area,” the report explains. However, many banks, investors and insurance companies do not hesitate to pour billions to accompany the exploration of oil and gas fields.
According to Reclaim Finance, 222 deposits are currently mined in the Arctic, and 377 are either under development or identified with known reserves.
If they were all funded and drilled, "they would release 88 gigatons (Gt) of CO2 during their operation," says the report.
This would represent around 20% of the total “carbon budget”, which should not be exceeded in order to limit global warming to 1.5 ° C.
An "ineffective" policy
Several French companies are among the players in this exploitation of fossil fuels.
TotalEnergies is thus, according to Reclaim Finance, "the European leader in oil and gas expansion in the Arctic".
If all of its development projects materialize, its production in the area could increase by 28% by 2030.
Such projects obviously require huge investments.
This is where banks and other insurance companies come into play. Reclaim Finance notably pinpoints BNP Paribas, Axa, and Amundi (a subsidiary of Crédit Agricole) for their support for oil and gas groups present in the Arctic.
“French banks are among the first to have adopted an Arctic policy, by not planning to directly finance projects in this area.
But this position is ineffective because they continue to fund companies present in this region on a global basis, ”explains Alix Mazounie, co-author of the report.
The second concern, and not the least, is the very definition of the territory.
Thus, for BNP Paribas, it is “the region most widely covered with ice over a 12-month period”.
Reclaim Finance, for its part, considers that the borders of the Arctic are much wider, with regard to the definition "AMAP" (program of monitoring and assessment of the Arctic) of the Arctic Council.
Consequence: no one is talking about the same thing.
“We found 13 different definitions among French players,” explains Alix Mazounie.
A cacophony which explains why certain actors can take advantage of not financing projects in the Arctic… according to their own delimitation.
The role of the state
With this report, Reclaim Finance therefore wishes to pinpoint the contradictions of financial players, and put pressure on them to review their support for companies that use fossil fuels. Obviously the message is partially passed, since BNP Paribas assures
that it "is currently working on a review of its funding criteria in this region. Ongoing work will include an in-depth analysis of all existing definitions of the Arctic region ”. The insurer Axa, for its part, assured
that it was studying “updates to its general approach” in the area.
"In the long term, the State should intervene via a law or via sanctions in order to better regulate the oil and gas industry" believes Alix Mazounie.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) indeed recalled a few months ago that it was essential to stop funding "in the exploration or extraction" of fossil fuels in order to contain global warming.
For now, France is content with recommendations to financial players, and even plans public investments in fossil fuels until 2035.
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