What if the first thing for the planet to do is change banks?

The biggest greenhouse gas emitters in France aren’t what you think. Are you thinking about TotalEnergies? Lost. These are the French banks. BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole / LCL and BPCE (Banque Populaire Caisse d’Epargne).

“By themselves, each of them has a larger carbon footprint than that of the whole of France”, says Alexandre Poidatz, head of defense of ecological transition financing at Oxfam France.

How ? By funding fossil fuel-related projects – gas and oil – that are incompatible with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C by 2050.

And they do it with our wallet. If we took into account the greenhouse gas emissions of our bank account, our carbon footprint would be double!

Read also: Climate. I measured my carbon footprint (and it almost made me optimistic!)

From checking account to life insurance

It is well known that money never sleeps. It also participates in the current account in loans granted by banks to fossil energy projects, incompatible with the Paris Agreement.

On savings books it should be directed towards a specific business sector. For example, social housing for the Livret A.

And then the social and ecological activities with the booklet of sustainable and solidarity development (ex Codevi)? Lost. “Only 10-20% of LDDS funds go to social and solidarity projects, emphasizes Alexandre Poidatz. The rest can be devoted to projects that destroy the environment. This type of brochure funds the world as it is rather than helping its transition. “

All other investments, bearing in mind life insurance, can be perfectly used to power fossil fuel projects that exacerbate global warming.

Even those labeled as socially responsible investments (SRI). “Their approach is as follows: to value the companies that have the best ecological transition ratings, without excluding fossil fuels. This means that 20% of these funds are tagged with Total. 8 euros out of 10 go to fossil fuels “, explains Alexandre Poidatz.

Unlike the GreenFin label, the green finance label, created in 2015 by the state, which immediately excludes investments in fossil fuels and nuclear power.

Good and bad students

No regulation, little transparency … “There is a cruel lack of information”, agrees Lucie Pinson, head of the NGO Reclaim Finance. You have tested the various French banks and launched the site change of bank in September to help you find your way “in the communication jungle of French financial actors”.

Verdict? Unsurprisingly, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole / LCL and BPCE are seen as a worsening of the climate chaos.

The efforts of some banks, notably Crédit Mutuel, which has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint by 15% by 2023, are welcomed even if they have to do better.

Finally, in the company of the neo-banks (GreenGo, Hélios) and Crédit Coopératif, the historic bank of ecology, La Banque Postale is doing well in its commitment to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.

A sensible argument

As evidence of the sensitivity of the topic, BNP Paribas, usually stoic in the face of banking comparators who are legions on the web, reacted by denouncing an approach that does not reflect the reality of its commitment to the climate.

“All our relationships are based on science, on numbers, which makes our research a source of credibility for the general public and investors”, claims Lucie Pinson, whose NGO responded to criticism from BNP Paribas.

She remembers it “The site is scalable, we play a monitoring role. For example, Banque Postale is still expected to push its asset management subsidiary, Asset Management, to stop investing in companies developing oil and gas projects. “

“Change banks”

Among the tools available, Alexandre Poidatz also mentions the Rift application, downloadable on smartphones. It allows you to scan the environmental and social impact of your savings to define, in the event of a desire for sustainable finance, which options to turn to.

“Obviously, if you take out a loan, you will choose the bank that offers you the lowest rates, agrees the Oxfam advocacy officer. And no one will throw stones at you. But there is also a way, on the side, to redirect your savings to the ship “, an ethical bank that finances only ecological, social and cultural projects.

For him, the important thing is to make everyone aware, private individuals, local authorities, companies, institutions, of the weight of our portfolio on climate change. “The goal is not to change banks. Above all, it is changing banks. “

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