EIB hit by activist hoax, pledges to continue hitting climate
Bankwatch Mail | 7 March 2013
The European Investment Bank’s annual press conference in the final week of February proved to be significantly more revealing about the bank’s commitment to fueling climate change than is the norm for the EU bank.
This article is from Issue 55 of our quarterly newsletter Bankwatch Mail
Reacting to a fake press release – circulated by activists on the eve of the bank’s set piece event in Brussels – which had announced that the EIB would be pulling out of coal investments with immediate effect, EIB president Werner Hoyer told journalists that the press release claim was “pure nonsense”. Nonetheless, Hoyer pressed on and stuck to his script, maintaining that the EIB remains a frontrunner in the fight against climate change.
The surrealism inside the European Council building mounted as the EIB president then received the ‘Coal Down’ award of a flower vase in the shape of a smokestack from a ‘citizen of Europe’, one of the activists involved in the targeting of the EIB.
Journalists further pressed President Hoyer and EIB colleagues about the bank’s efforts to combat climate change and to clarify its position on future lending for coal-fired power plants in Europe. It was reiterated that the EIB was not currently ready to announce dropping coal from its portfolio, and that gas too will continue to feature in its multi-million euro energy lending.
The EIB is currently undertaking a review of its energy lending policy, a process that takes place once every 5-6 years. Bankwatch and NGO allies such as Counter Balance (the group behind the EIB hoax action, with help from the Yes Lab) that have been participating in the public consultation for the policy review contend that such is the acuteness of the climate change challenge the EIB must take this opportunity and commit to no further financing of coal fired power plants.
How the EU’s bank is helping to drive climate change
EIB loans to coal 2007-2011: 2 billion euros
EIB loans to fossil fuels 2007-2011: 19 billion euros (a third of overall energy lending)
EIB total energy loans: 62 billion euros
Coal plants financed by the EIB since 2007:
– Du-Walsum Coal Power Plant in Germany, 2007
– PPC Environment in Greece, 2007
– Enel Energia Rinnovabile & Ambiente in Italy, 2007
– TES – THERMAL Power Plant Sostanj in Slovenia, 2007 and 2010
– Power Plant Karlsruhe in Germany, 2008
– Fortum CHP And E-Metering in Poland, 2009
– SE Power Plant And Forest Industry R&D in Poland, 2010
– South Poland CHP in Poland, 2011
– Paroseni Power Plant in Romania, 2011
According to Berber Verpoest of Counter Balance, “The presentation of this award and the hoax press release were meant to emphasise the deep contradiction at the heart of the EIB. On the one hand, this is the bank of the EU with the goal to fight climate change; on the other hand, the EIB has been lending billions to coal, gas and other fossil fuels and until last year its dirty energy loans were equal to its support for clean energy. So with the hoax we wanted to make clear what we expect the future energy policy to look like.”
Other than the press conference comments from Mr Hoyer, the EIB also reacted to the hoax press release by posting a denial on its website that included the threat of legal action. At the time of going to press, there had been no further indications of the bank actively seeking legal redress.
Such steps from the EIB, though, would surely indicate that it is missing the basic, highly serious point at the heart of the activist hoax.
As Xavier Sol from Counter Balance explained in the aftermath of the press conference high jinx in Brussels: “The EIB has been working hard over the past years to clean up its lending. We commend them for those efforts and we hope that they take this hoax for what it really is: not so much an attempt to make fun, but an alarm bell that time is running out and subsidies for fossil fuels must be ended today if we want to avoid catastrophe.”
Find out more
Check out how the EIB hoax unfolded, including footage of the ‘Coal Down’ award handover, at: