While banks celebrated the outdated World Savings Day on 29 October, numerous NGOs and activist groups around the world called for a protest for climate justice – including the KoalaKollektiv. Together with the bank activists of urgewald and other supporters, we sent a large-scale and highly visible message to the ECB, the Deutsche Bank, the Commerzbank and the Sparkassengruppe:
On 29 October we sprayed and painted a huge street mural. We did this directly in front of the Euro symbol at Willy-Brandt-Platz, with the bank towers as a backdrop. Besides KoalaKollektiv and urgewald, activists from the Frankfurt chapters of Greenpeace and People for Future also wielded their brushes. Even passers-by joined the action, while numerous media representatives filmed, interviewed and took photos.
Banks are financing the climate crisis
The protests at over 120 locations worldwide are poignant in view of the billions of dollars that continue to flow into the expansion of fossil fuels. Also German banks continue to do big business with the destruction of our basis for life.
According to research by urgewald, Commerzbank is the largest German lender to the global coal industry, with €4 billion in loans over the last two years. A few weeks before the UN climate conference in Glasgow, it came out that the bank is involved in a bond issue for JSC SUEK, Russia’s largest coal company. SUEK is planning and building new coal-fired power plants to substantially increase its coal production.
Deutsche Bank wants to help Germany’s largest oil and gas company, Wintershall Dea, go public. It is also preparing a bond issue for the Australian coal company Whitehaven, which wants to develop new coal mines.
The Sparkassen Group with its associated Landesbanken is one of RWE’s largest financiers. The energy provider does not want to stop mining lignite until 2038. For this reason, several villages will be bulldozed to make way for the Garzweiler open-cast mine.
The European Central Bank (ECB), through its supervisory and regulatory role, has opportunities to encourage private banks to take strong climate action. An effective option would be, for example, a one-for-one regulation for the financing of climate-damaging projects. Together with Finance Watch and other organisations, the Koala Kollektiv is calling for this regulation.
But although the ECB as a European institution is bound by the Paris Climate Agreement, it is not fulfilling its responsibility. On the contrary, it continues to add fuel to the fire of the climate crisis.
The day before the action, a report by Reclaim Finance revealed new details: Under its Corona bailout programme PEPP alone, the ECB pumped an estimated €80 billion into anti-climate industries, with €15 billion going to gas, coal and oil alone. This means that last year the ECB actually increased its support for companies like Shell, Eni, OMV, TotalEnergies and Repsol. These companies are among the biggest polluters worldwide.
The ECB – under persistent pressure from civil society – did announce climate protection measures in its new strategy in July 2021. President Lagarde herself keeps talking about including more “climate change” in her monetary policy. But the measures announced are too weak, too vague and above all too slow.
People in Europe and especially in the Global South are losing their livelihoods and their lives to flood disasters and forest fires. All the while the ECB continues postponing the solution with announcements and strategy papers. We say: No more lip service and greenwashing! The ECB must push for social-ecological change. The financing of industries that are hostile to the future must be stopped with immediate effect!