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Success story: The EU's bank quits coal

Fifteen years after Bankwatch began requesting information from the European Investment Bank, only to receive the terse reply “We are accountable only to the market,” the campaign to reform the EU’s house bank took another step forward towards making the world’s largest public lender a leader in the fight against climate change.

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While the EIB has made strides in recent years greening its energy portfolio, the bank continues to spend entirely too much on dirty, climate-damaging fossil fuels. The review of the EIB energy lending policy presented an opportunity to reverse this trend and bring the bank in line with the EU’s long-term climate commitments, and Bankwatch jumped on it.

Even before the revision was formally launched in December 2012, Bankwatch was knocking on the doors of decision-makers in European capitals, enlisting the support of other civil society groups, business associations and think tanks and making appearances in the media.

Facilitating a strong and concerted campaign, which included by far more than a hundred participants during the consultation meeting and almost 90 formal written submissions to the bank (including at least two from the European Commission), Bankwatch helped secure by summer 2013 a climate-friendly policy that all but eliminated the possibility of support for coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

One of our campaign actions was to announce that the EIB has decided to end its support for coal and to reward it with the "Coal Down Award". The many positive reactions to the (premature) announcement increased the pressure on the bank to set very strict limitations for coal investments.

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With the introduction of a so-called Emissions Performance Standard, the new policy requires the EIB to refrain from financing the most carbon-intensive power generation. Additionally with last-minute pressure exerted by the bank’s board, loopholes in the policy were removed that could have enabled sneaky backdoor financing for virtually all types of energy projects.

The new policy is a win not only for the EIB campaign but will pay dividends during Bankwatch’s work to green international public energy lending - a process that began as the EIB wrapped up its revision and that continues with the EBRD energy strategy in the second half of 2013. With the EIB joining the World Bank and other financing institutions in a move away from financing coal power, all eyes are on other public banks (the EBRD, the German KfW, the Japanese JPIC, etc.) and whether they will become more climate friendly lenders.

Once the dust has settled on coal finance, other fossil fuels, energy poverty and similar aspects of our unsustainable energy system will still remain to be tackled. You can subscribe to stay updated and get involved in our work or support us with a donation.