29 October 2020 | Major banks loaned more than $2.6 trillion to sectors driving the climate and extinction crises in 2019, an amount higher than the GDP of Canada, according to a new report called Bankrolling Extinction, published this week by portfolio.earth. The says most banks lack internal systems for monitoring biodiversity impacts and that current accounting rules shield them from liability. The report comes on the heels of a similar analysis by the Rainforest Action Network, which found that major financial institutions were financing activities without regard to the Paris Climate Agreement.
“This report from portfolio.earth confirms what our research also shows, that banks globally still need to step up their game and develop an approach to protect biodiversity,” Peter van der Werf, senior engagement specialist at Netherlands-based asset manager Robeco, told Reuters.
Industrial agriculture has again emerged as a primary culprit, especially in Southeast Asia and the Amazon region, but mining, fossil fuels, infrastructure, tourism, transport, and logistics were also singled out.
The analysis was described as “a frightening statement of the status quo” by Dr. Robert Watson, former chair of both the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Mark Campanale, founder and executive chair of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, said that the report “reminds us that there is no time to lose for governments and financial regulators to create an appropriate rules-based system to oversee and ensure that banks cannot continue to finance this corporate planetary plunder, unconstrained and unnoticed.”
“Environmental destruction,” the report authors wrote, “can no longer be seen as an unfortunate byproduct of economic development.” Rather, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that healthy, biodiverse environments “underpin the functioning of our health, societies, and economies.”
The top ten offenders were Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Mizuho Financial, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, HSBC, SMBC Group, and Barclays.
Declan Foraise is a retired forester who primarily covers land use issues in Europe and Latin America.