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BNP to cut links with shale and tar sands groups

PARIS (UPI/Financial Times) — Paris-based global banker BNP Paribas announced Wednesday it would no longer do business with companies whose primary activity involves oil and gas extracted from shale deposits, tar sands or Arctic campaigns in one of the most aggressive steps so far by an international bank to reduce exposure to fossil fuels.

The lender and largest banking firm in France offered a long list of projects it would no longer finance, ranging from an end to the support for projects involved in the transportation or export of oil and gas from shale basins or tar sands operations, like those found in Canada. The bank said it would no longer finance projects in the Arctic region and no longer support coal energy companies not actively looking to diversity its own portfolio.

Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, CEO, said the measures were designed to support “the transition to a more sustainable world” and decarbonization of the economy.

“We’re committed to working with and supporting those energy sector partners who have decided to make environmental issues a central part of their business policy,” Bonnafé said in a statement.

The move expands an earlier commitment by the bank to stop financing coal mining and coal-fired power projects and highlights the growing risks facing the oil and gas industry from global efforts to tackle climate change.

Oil from tar sands, such as those found in Canada, have long been targeted by environmentalists because of their high carbon-intensity compared with conventional crude.

The bank said the new measures support previous commitments to green up its financial support with a $17.7 billion in backing for renewable energy projects by 2020, investments totaling $118 million for start-ups that specialize in energy transition and a “highly ambitious policy on green bonds.”

The announcement Wednesday comes as the energy sector transitions along several fronts. In the United States, President Donald Trump has started work to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, aligned his energy policies with coal and laid out a vision for energy dominance through shale oil and gas, whose development is controversial because of the perceived risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

Royal Dutch Shell in March sold most of its Canadian tar sand assets and ExxonMobil wrote off 3.5 billion barrels of similar resources deemed no longer “economically producible”.

Extraction of shale oil and gas has been criticised for a range of alleged environmental problems — many of them disputed by the industry — and Arctic exploration has faced opposition because of its perceived threat to a pristine wilderness.

The immediate impact of the new policy is likely to be limited because BNP Paribas has relatively little exposure to the resources it is blacklisting, most of which are concentrated in North America. However, it demonstrates mounting scrutiny from financial institutions of “climate risks” in their investment and financing activities.

The French government has been pushing the country’s financial sector to support carbon-reduction efforts following its hosting of the Paris climate summit in 2015. An “energy transition law” required institutional investors to disclose risks associated with climate change in their portfolios.

Charles-Eduard van Rossum, president of Ravel & Co, a financial advisory firm, said the disclosure rule was forcing companies to react. “Many if not all French companies have tried to implement a strategy to take account of . . . increased focus from investors on climate-related matters,” he said. “Investors are going to be more sensitive to investing in companies that are perceived to have the wrong footprint.”

Written by UPI writer Daniel J. Graeber with inclusion of paragraphs from a Financial Times article on the same topic.

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BNP to cut links with shale and tar sands groups