Savings, a heavy weight in our carbon footprint?

Savings, a heavy weight in our carbon footprint?

We don’t necessarily think about it, I must say it’s not obvious. But our savings also have their carbon footprint. And not just a little. Depending on the bank where it is deposited, money can become the first item of CO2 emissions, says Oxfam, which offers an online calculator so everyone can estimate.

When the average annual carbon footprint of a French person is 11.2 tons of CO2 equivalent (eqCO2) per year, their savings would amount to 16 tons of eqCO2 per year for 25,000 euros placed in Société Générale, calculates the NGO. There are 15 tons of CO2 eq at BNP Paribas, 11 tons at Crédit Agricole… compared to 8.8 tons at La Banque Postale.

The imperative to stop investing in new fossil projects

It all depends, then, on how these establishments use their customers’ savings. This is all the ambivalence of the banks, which play a key role in the climate equation. “They are essential to finance the transition, but they can also contribute to aggravating climate change, by financing the development of activities that are incompatible with international objectives,” explains Reclaim Finance, an NGO that examines the impact of finance on climate. To see it more clearly, it launches this Monday changedebanque.org, a site that helps differentiate the French banks that continue to aggravate the climate crisis and those that offer responsible alternatives.

In fact, it is not easy to navigate, since in recent years, financial actors have multiplied climate commitments. And the big French banks are not left out. All of them have joined the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, which sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, with a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. with investments in new projects using fossil fuels, coal, oil or gas,” recalls Lucie Pinson, director of Reclaim Finance.

This imperative to get off fossil fuels little by little is taking root in people’s minds. States took several steps in this direction at COP26 in Glasgow in November. A few months earlier, the highly influential International Energy Agency (IEA) called for no further investment, henceforth, in new oil or gas installations, in a report that caused a stir.

A gap between rhetoric and action?

But we are not there yet… “Between 2016 [au lendemain de l’accord de Paris] and 2021, the main French banks -from BNP Paribas to Natixis* passing through Crédit Agricole or Société Générale- have allocated more than 350,000 million dollars to fossil fuels”, laments Lucie Pinson. Enough for the Paris square to be the EU’s first support for this industry, hot on the heels of London, specified the 2022 edition of “Banking on climate chaos”, written by a coalition of European NGOs specialized in climate finance, among which is ReclaimFinance.

This source of money has not yet been exhausted, for Lucie Pinson. “As much as French banks have gotten their act together in coal, they continue to financially support projects or companies that continue to develop in oil and gas,” she explains. A textbook case for Reclaim Finance: Total Energies. It is true that the French oil company is increasingly turning to renewable energy. “But the problem is the unallocated financial support that French banks continue to allocate to Total,” continues Lucie Pinson. However, the largest still dedicates 70% of its investment expenses to oil and gas, particularly in projects that are climate bombs. “In particular “EACOP”, which intends to link Uganda with Tanzania by means of the largest heated oil pipeline (1,443 km) in the world.

This is the whole idea of ​​change-de-banque.org: to provide the keys to understand this link between finance and climate, and those to act in order to reduce the carbon impact of savings. “We have a greater number of banking players and neobanks [dont les services sont accessibles principalement en ligne] that take the opposite view to traditional banks by showing a real ambition to play a major role in the green transition and make a positive impact on their customers’ money”, observes Lucie Pinson.

“Generate a collective momentum”

The perfect green bank does not exist, insists Changedebanque.org. But when analyzing the way in which the funds are managed, the guarantees granted or their association relationship with other banking institutions, Reclaim Finance highlights four responsible alternatives: Banque Postale, Crédit Coopératif, the neobanks Helios and Green Got. The NGO also highlights LITA.co, a European group that has been organizing fundraisers since 2014 for companies that demonstrate a social or environmental impact. Or La Nouvelle banque fraternelle (La Nef), a financial cooperative that collects savings to finance projects with a social, ecological or cultural impact.

The whole hope of change-ta-banque.org is to encourage people to take action. A tab even allows you to inform your bank advisor of your decision to change banks. “And the site isn’t just for individuals,” says Lucie Pinson. We work in various profiles: student, business leader, community or foundation representative. The challenge, beyond the individual action that changing banks represents, is to generate a collective impulse. »

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