The news that financing of green projects overtook that of fossil fuels earlier in May could represent a turning point for the growing environmental, social and governance market, which, in spite of its yield appeal, continued to lag behind ‘traditional’ finance. Between the beginning of the year and May 14, data collected by Bloomberg of 140 financial services firms show a tally of at least $203bn for green bonds and loans, against the $189bn that backed fossil-fuel activity.
Banks, however, remain the target of much criticism as environmentalist groups point to the growth of financing to highly polluting industries since the 2016 Paris Agreement. Overall, the world’s largest 60 banks have provided a total $3.8tn to 2300 companies in the fossil-fuel lifecycle. JPMorgan, at the top of the infamous league table, lowered its exposure to the industry in 2020, however — a trend followed by others among the largest 10 banks.
BNP Paribas went the other way, boosting exposure by more than 40%. The Rainforest Action Network, which regularly monitors lenders in association with other five groups, points out that although otherwise holding generally strong policies, the French bank is the world’s largest financier of offshore oil and gas.