Thursday, March 23, 2023

Environmental activists sue BNP Paribas in France

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Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Three environmental activist groups have announced a lawsuit against BNP Paribas banking group in France over its loans to fossil fuel companies.

The groups say that BNP Paribas’ activities are in violation of environmental regulations, stressing that the move is aimed at forcing the banking group to stop financing fossil fuel projects, according to Reuters reporting on Thursday.

The environmental organizations in question – Oxfam, Friends of the Earth, and Notre Affaire à Tous – pointed out in a statement that their move is the first such lawsuit against a commercial bank.

“BNP Paribas continues to write new blank cheques to the largest fossil fuel companies without setting any conditions for an oil-free, gas-free ecological transition,” Oxfam warned.

BNP Paribas expressed regret in a statement that activists decided to sue rather than engage in dialogue, adding that it cannot stop all financing arrangements immediately.

“We’re convinced that the ecological transition is the only viable path for the future of our economies,” the banking group noted and added, “we are focused on our fossil-fuel exit path, accelerating financing for renewable energies and supporting our customers, without whom the transition cannot be made.”

Rules from 2017

The lawsuit is based on French regulations adopted in 2017 that require companies to move away from fossil fuels and draw up environmental plans. Thus far, the law has not been used to force a company to align its operation with environmental rules.

It is part of a broader environmental legal attack against companies and entities including TotalEnergies, Shell, Air France, and the French state.

Environmental activists pointed out that their legal approach against BNP Paribas is modeled after a lawsuit in 2021 against Shell, which forced the company to cut its CO2 emissions.

The three groups noted that BNP Paribas does not finance fossil fuel projects directly but through its banking clients, stressing the importance of forcing companies to stop supporting potentially harmful projects.

They concluded that this indirect approach allows BNP Paribas to make environmentally friendly claims, adopt green labels and join the Net Zero Banking Alliance.

A ruling in a similar case against BNP Paribas’ top client TotalEnergies is expected next week.

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