In more than five years since the world agreed to limit warming temperatures, banks have poured more than $3.6 trillion into fossil fuel—almost three times more than total bonds and loans backing green projects, according to Bloomberg data. Now this enduring disparity favoring oil, gas and coal producers might finally be at an end.
Green bonds and loans from the global banking sector exceed the value of fossil financing so far this year, an unprecedented reversal since the clinching of the Paris Agreement at the very end of 2015. Bloomberg data covering almost 140 financial-service institutions worldwide shows at least $203 billion bonds and loans to renewable projects and other climate-friendly ventures through May 14, compared with $189 billion to businesses focused on hydrocarbons.
“We may well be at a powerful tipping point,” said Tim Buckley, a clean-energy investor who spent nearly two decades at Citigroup Inc. “Finance will only lead when the numbers make sense.”
The long wait for finance to ditch major sources of planet-warming pollution has left the sector open to criticism. By taking fees for underwriting fossil fuels, banks appeared to be prioritizing short-term profits over climate goals. Banks have pocketed an estimated $16.6 billion from arranging bonds and loans for energy companies since the Paris announcement—more than double the $7.4 billion garnered from green bonds and loans.
[Mathieu Benhamou and Tim Quinson]