Credit Suisse Investments

On January 13, 2020, a court acquitted 12 activists who had been sued by Credit Suisse, ruling that their action was justified by the urgency of the climate change situation and the bank’s role in it.

Credit Suisse issued a press release on the same day in which the bank stated that the campaign against it was spreading false information and claimed to be in line with the Paris Accord.

Let’s compare the content of this press release with the facts.

A few numbers

In order to meet the objectives formulated by the IPCC and enshrined in the Paris agreement, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency has acknowledged that we can no longer build new infrastructure that emits CO2 (The Guardian, 13 nov. 2018).

Moreover, the reserves already in operation contain more carbon than we can burn to limit warming to a maximum of 1.5°C. No new fossil fuel exploration and production projects should be opened. These data are known by the Bank and by all major economic and political players.

Although Credit Suisse officially supports the objectives of the Paris climate agreement, it has been financing companies in the coal, oil and gas sectors since 2015 with billions of dollars for the exploration, production and processing of fossil fuels. The existing instruments and guidelines do not appear to have led to any changes in the bank’s decision-making processes. The Bank’s loan and investment portfolios are simply not being decarbonised at a pace commensurate with IPCC recommendations and the climate crisis. The Bank is thus discrediting itself.

Credit Suisse falling behind in global wealth management ranking 

According to a ranking of the 75 largest global asset managers on Responsible Investments, Credit Suisse ranks a miserable 72 out of 75 (Share Action, Point of No Returns, March 2020).

Between 2016 and 2019 Credit Suisse invested a total of $74.3 billion USD in fossil fuels. In particular the bank provided almost 23 billion USD in financial support for global firms actively expanding their fossil fuels businesses (RAN et al.,Banking on Climate Change – Fossil Fuel Finance Report  2020)

At the end of 2018, Greenpeace revealed that, since the undersigning of the Paris Accord, Credit Suisse had provided a total of 7.8 billion US dollars to 47 companies between 2015 and 2017 that use particularly dirty, so-called extreme fossil fuels. These include coal, oil from tar sands, from the Arctic and deep sea, and liquefied natural gas (LNG). With these 7.8 billion US dollars, Credit Suisse financed a total of 127 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (Right, Based on Science,  commissioned by Greenpeace, An analysis of fossil fuel emissions financed by Credit Suisse and UBS, 2018).

Between 2015 and 2017 Credit Suisse financed 127 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2017 alone, two years after the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted, Credit Suisse financed 82.6 million tons of CO2e from the 47 companies surveyed – 1.75 times as many emissions as Switzerland produced domestically (Right, Based on Science,  commissioned by Greenpeace, An analysis of fossil fuel emissions financed by Credit Suisse and UBS, 2018).

Between 2016 and 2019 Credit Suisse provided around 2 billion USD in support to some of the biggest coal mining companies in the world, while at the same time supporting some of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants with more than 4 billion US dollars (RAN et al., Banking on Climate Change – Fossil Fuel Finance Report, 2020).

Since 2017, Credit Suisse has supported companies building new coal-fired power plants with around 2.7 billion US dollars (loans and investments).

A detailed breakdown of the financial data for Credit Suisse can be found here: https://coalexit.org/investments-bank-ct?name=Credit+Suisse (Urgewald, Dec. 2019).

Since 2014 Credit Suisse has financed some of the main companies involved both in Alberta tar sands extraction and in carrying tar sands oil via pipeline out of Alberta with over one billion US dollars (RAN, Funding Tar Sands ; Bank Track, Banking on climate change, 2019).

Please note : the extraction of this ‘extreme’ energy implies:

  • violation of the rights of indigenous communities
  • the pollution of huge amounts of water (up to 5 barrels of water are needed for each barrel of crude)
  • huge amounts of energy (190kg of greenhouse gases are produced to extract the equivalent of one barrel, three times what is needed for conventional oil)
  • the irreversible destruction of parts of the boreal forest (which will amount in the end to around 5000 square kilometers).

People are already dying because of the pollution of the Athabasca, the region’s main river (Stephane M. McLachlan, Environmental and Human Health Implications of the Athabasca Oil, 2014). A recent study shows that CO2 equivalent emissions are 30% higher than those announced by the companies that operate them (John Liggio & al., Nature Communications, april 2019). Some scientists consider that the development of the tar sands does not allow to stay below the 2°C threshold of climate change, the upper limit set by the Paris agreement (Christophe MacGlade & Paul Enkins, Nature, 7 juin 2015).

Between 2016 and 2019 Credit Suisse has financed companies that are drilling in the Arctic with at least 622 million USD. Such financing even increased in 2019 (RAN et al., Banking on Climate Change – Fossil Fuel Finance Report, 2020).

Between 2016 and 2019, Credit Suisse has financed companies that operate offshore oil and gas production with more than 3 billion US dollars. This renders the bank one of the top ten banks globally in the oil, gas and fracking business (RAN et al., Banking on Climate Change, 2020).

The Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund remains the largest shareholder of the Bank, ahead of Harris Associates and Norges Bank.  (Bloomberg Database as of 3.7.2020; Allnews.ch, Credit Suisse le Qatar augmente sa participation, August 13th 2018).

Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter of Liquefied Natural Gas.

4
billion USD IN FOSSIL FUELS
BETWEEN 2016 AND 2019
1
MILLION TONNES OF GREENHOUSE GASES
BETWEEN 2015 AND 2017
1
MILLION USD IN ARCTIC DRILLING
BETWEEN 2016 and 2019

Their words - Our comments

« Credit Suisse is seeking to align its financing on the Paris Agreement objectives »

Credit Suisse is one of 35 banks globally most involved in supporting and financing fossil fuels in the world (RAN et al., Banking on Climate Change – Fossil Fuel Finance Report, 2020). The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. Five years on, Credit Suisse is still far from breaking ties with the fossil fuel industry’ (Johan Frijns & al., Letter to Credit Suisse’s CEO, december 2019). While the Bank is making a high-profile affirmation that it is taking the climate crisis seriously, it continues to finance companies that seek and extract extremely harmful fuels such as coal and oil from tar sands and fracking.

Examples and figures demonstrating the bank’s very strong involvement in the financing of fossil fuels abound. One out of many is the role it played end of 2019 in the IPO of Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil producing company in the world.

After trying everything to become one of its global coordinator, the bank was one of 9 financial advisors for the initial public offering of Saudi Aramco in December 2019, via Credit Suisse Saudi Arabia. Credit Suisse Europe was one of its Joint Bookrunners (Globallegalchronicle.com, Saudi Aramco’s $25.6 Billion Initial Public Offering, december 2019).

According to Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute, Saudi Aramco is linked to 4,38% of all carbon dioxyde and methane produced by human activity since 1965. It’s at the top of the ranking of the ’20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions’  (The Guardian, Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions, october 9th 2019).

« [Its] internal guidelines are permanently monitored and are constantly enforced »

From a climate perspective, solutions based on bank volunteerism have proven to be uneffective for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions these last few years on a global scale. Credit Suisse’s climate-related standards and guidelines are minimal to weak. A detailed analysis of the guidelines in different fossil fuel sectors (as of March 2020) shows that the bank only achieves 9 out of 200 possible points (in comparison: Crédit Agricole’s policy achieves 82 pts) (RAN et al., Banking on Climate Change, 2020). This result could improve slightly with the new restrictions announced by the bank end of July 2020.

In practice, these internal guidelines have not prevented Credit Suisse from contributing to the financing of a number of projects and/or companies with catastrophic climate impacts: including direct financing for the first shale gas export terminal from the US Sabine Pass (famous in particular for having been temporarily closed after 10 years of chronically underestimated leakage : Justin Mikulka, Desmog, feb. 18, 2018) but also the financing of more than USD 1 billion in 2018 of the Texas-based shale gas company Apache (Daniel Stern, Der wilde Ritt der Credit Suisse, WOZ, april 4 2019).

Credit Suisse’s guidelines also did not prevent it in 2017 from contributing with other 21 banks to finance TransCanada (Alison Kirsh, Who’s bankrolling TransCanada, march 2017 / RAN, Funding Tar Sands, november 2017), a company leading several emblematic projects dangerous for the climate, including the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.

Finally, its guidelines allowed it to be the second largest funder of the German company RWE, which mines lignite, the most polluting coal in North Westphalia, between 2016 and 2019. The area is one of the most CO2-intensive in Europe (BankTrack, Banking on Climate Change 2019 / Gerard Wynn, RWE’s lignite, Energypost.eu, october 2018).

« [It wouldn't] finance coal power plants anymore. »

In December 2019, Credit Suisse committed itself to no longer directly financing  ‘new power plant projects‘. This announcement is far from being a heavy sacrifice for Credit Suisse. Over the past 20 years, the bank has only granted two direct loans for new coal-fired power plant projects, one in 2006 and another in 2007. In other words, Credit Suisse is trying to present an image of a responsible bank at low cost by committing itself to no longer doing what it already did not or no longer does.

The Bank stands out as the largest non-Chinese lender in financing global coal production over the last four years. Between 2016 and 2019, Credit Suisse has provided more than 4 billion US dollars to the 30 largest coal-fired power plant operators. In doing so, it is helping to expand one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive energy sources (RAN et al., Banking on Climate Change, 2020).  Such financing makes it impossible to achieve the exit from coal and the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that is necessary to meet climate targets.

One commitment that would make a real difference in the fight against climate change would be to give up its massive financing of coal companies. For all banks, “corporate” finance accounts for the bulk of their coal financing; project finance is still only a small part, less than 10%. For Credit Suisse, almost all of its support for coal is therefore provided in the form of credits or aid for the issue of shares and bonds by companies. At the end of July 2020, the bank announced new restrictions, such as no further lending or capital markets underwriting for companies that generate more than 25% of their revenues from thermal coal extraction or that derive more than 25% of their revenues from coal power (Credit Suisse media release, July 30, 2020). Whether these restrictions will make a difference will be seen in the coming months.

« Credit Suisse's part in credits for fossil fuels is in the lower range »

It’s great news this is now the official stance of Credit Suisse management ! For a good reason too, since this confirms the idea according to which disinvestment of the sums granted to the global fossil fuel industry is really possible for the bank.

However, in order to appreciate the scale of the announced amount, we should have access to the equivalent in USD, as well as to the profile of the amounts of ‘fossil fuel credits’ expected for the next 30 years.

This profile should decrease drastically starting this year, in order to reach 0 in 2050 at the latest, i.e. “7.6% emission reductions per year between 2020 and 2030 in order to hope to limit warming as close to 1.5°C as possible” ( UNEP, Emissions gap report, 2019). Disclosure of the profile of volumes of “fossil fuel credits” is essential, as already recommended by the NGFS (Network for Greening the Financial System, A Call for Action, april 2019) and the TCFD (Recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, june 2017).

« Credit Suisse is a driver of sustainable financial investments »

Supporting the development of renewable energies is important. It’s one of the pillars of an energetic and ecologic transition, which is absolutely essential.

To be believable, the mentioned amounts first need to be clarified. Several coal and oil TNCs intervene massively in these sectors, as well as for a smaller share in renewable energies. What’s more, renewable energies also have negative climate externalities that should also be discussed. Let’s hope Credit Suisse does everything it can to uncover their exact impact. This data is relevant when compared to the efficiency of support to other mitigation strategies. 

Moreover, financing renewable energies while simultaneously continuing to finance fossil fuels on a large scale like Credit Suisse is doing is highly problematic. Global destruction of climate doesn’t get ‘fixed’ just because you organise a few fundraisers and/or lend billions to the main drivers of climate chaos, while also lending billions to others with less destructive activities.

The most credible energetic transition scenarions (like the Scenario Negawatt in France) insist on the fact that the most important transitions show that energy efficiency and conservation are essential. The transition to highly technical solutions (including so-called renewable’ energy) and has proven its inefficiency in decreasing massively the amounts of CO2 accountable for the global ecologic crisis : they didn’t replace fossil fuels, but were added onto an ever-growing pile of coal, oil and gas production (Richard York, Nature Climate Change, june 2012 ; Yuanan Hu & Hefa Cheng, Nature Communications, feb. 2017).

« Credit Suisse supported the emission of 28 billion USD green bonds »

As underlined by the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) about HSBC’s green obligations in 2015 : “there exists no guarantee, nor any ‘methodology’ to assure that the net impact of [green obligations] is significantly positive.” (“Second Opinion” on HSBC’s green obligation framework , Cicero 2015). It was recently proven that “[green obligations and standard obligations] are in fact the same product, despite a political and media discourse that tries to sell the existence of a difference between the two”. The authors of the research also underlined that “the ‘green’ promise linked to such an obligation carries no legal weight” and concluded that : “It is at the least questionable that ‘green’ obligation contributes to fight global warming (as opposed to financing directly green projects), and the issue of greenwashing could be raised.” (Ekeland et Lefournier, L’obligation verte : homéopathie ou incantation ?, june 3 2019).

An article from The Guardian in February 2019 indicated that “Australia [uses] climate change funding to upgrade coal-fired power plants”  (Adam Morton, Out on its own, The Guardian, feb. 28 2019). In China, “only 10% of green bonds sold last year [2016] had independent verification on the use of proceeds” (Claire Milhench, Emerging climate bonds boom, but are they really green?, Reuters, august 18 août 2017). According to Les Amis de la Terre France, the 2,5 billion euro fundraiser organised by GDF Suez in 2014 for private investors in order to finance “so-called clean energy projects” went into “green projects” without “any clear social or environmental criteria” being guaranteed, while the company keeps “investing heavily in fossil fuels” (Amis de la Terre France, Shell, GDF Suez et Samsung remportent les Prix Pinocchio 2014, november 18th 2014).

Finally, supposing these ‘green bonds’ are really green, the announced sum of “28 billion dollars in green obligations for [its] clients” over 6 years is ridiculously low and represents far less than half of what Credit Suisse lent in “fossil fuel related transactions” over the period between 2016 to 2019.

« Credit Suisse supports the transition to a climate-friendly future through its involvement with fossil fuel producers »

It is not enough for Credit Suisse to refer to engagement approaches with the aim of gradual transformation if companies financed by the bank have a non-transformable business model or engage in climate-sceptic lobbying. In such cases, only the permanent termination of business relationships can be in the interest of the environment.

It is now 2020. The risks and threats brought on by climate change have been verified since they were first formulated 50 years ago. Despite the international commitments pledged 5 years ago in Paris at COP21, Credit Suisse keeps massively financing the development of fossil fuels.

Contrary to other majors European financial actors, Credit Suisse has so far failed to question its actions in order to stop contributing to the worsening of the climate crisis. This failure is endangering our future and puts millions of people at risk. Wildfires in Siberia, the Amazon and Australia, the drought in India, flooding and fires in Indonesia are but a few examples of dangers the IPCC warned against in their report on the consequences of a warming scenario exceeding 1,5°C (IPCC, Special Report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, 2018).

Credit Suisse response to this situation and to the current mass mobilisations, including various lawsuits filed by the bank, is outrageous. It only makes us more determined to obtain rapid disinvestment from all funds granted to the major players of climate chaos.

Dessin de presse Vincent Lepee
"Will the Australian Open be held?"
"The air is unbreathable here... let's go finish the game at a Credit Suisse branch instead."
Vincent di Silvestro - Le Courrier 15.01.2020

Only the original text in French is legally binding