Defund Fossil Fuels

a European Guide

Find out about the companies and banks driving a new generation of fossil fuel infrastructure in Europe – and how we can resist them.

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Find out more about Defund Fossil Fuels Webinar we hosted on Thursday 26th July 2018.

The climate justice movement in Europe has seen a resurgence in international coordination, solidarity and networking across borders since 2015. Many of the fossil fuel companies pushing new infrastructure projects operate in multiple countries, and crucially, are often financed by the same collection of private and public banks. The financial system is a key enabler in the supply chain of new fossil fuel projects – and many private banks also have retail branches in towns and cities all around Europe.

Despite the global commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees under the 2015 Paris Agreement, these institutions continue to finance new coal and gas projects that will lock us into decades of future greenhouse gas emissions.

The Defund Fossil Fuels report highlights the banks behind eight key fossil fuel battles in Europe. Many of the financial institutions attempt to obscure their role in the climate crisis by sponsoring UN negotiations and other green finance events. Yet beneath their public relations hype about new sustainability commitments, the majority of the world’s leading commercial banks continue to funnel eye-watering sums into new fossil fuel projects.

Download the Defund Fossil Fuels Guide

Key Battles

We looked at the financial data for companies involved in eight key fossil fuel projects across Europe.

The Gas Projects

The proposed Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) from Greece, Albania to Italy is part of the “Southern Gas Corridor” — a 3,500km chain of proposed mega-pipelines that would pump 10 billion cubic metres of gas from Azerbaijan to Europe every year. This pipeline would destroy Europe’s climate targets, increase energy dependence on oppressive political regimes and have unacceptable impacts on the communities on its path. In Melendugno, Southern Italy – residents and olive farmers have been resisting the pipeline. Companies researched: BP, SOCAR, SNAM, Enagas, Fluxys, AXPO

Over 50 years of gas drilling by Shell and Exxon Mobil has caused many earthquakes in the local area damaging people’s homes and local buildings. Thousands of people have been demonstrating for an end to the gas production. Companies researched: Shell, Exxon Mobil

A proposed new 235km gas pipeline has received ‘Project of Common Interest’ status from the European Union and aims to double the amount of gas that can be piped across the Pyrenees mountains. Companies researched: Enagas, GRTgaz, TIGF (TIGF became Teréga in March 2018)

The proposal by Swedegas for a new Liquefied Natural Gas terminal to import gas would be contradictory to Sweden’s plans to go fossil free. Companies researched: Enagas, Fluxys

Having been banned and pushed back in many European countries, England is one of the last places where the shale gas industry is attempting to frack. Hundreds of community groups have sprung up to actively resist them. Companies researched: Cuadrilla, INEOS, Third Energy, Europa Oil & Gas

The Coal Projects

Despite high levels of air pollution for local communities and the climate impacts of coal, the Polish government remains determined to open new opencast mines and build 8 new coal-fired power units. Companies researched: PGE, Energa, Enea, Kompania Węglowa. (Kompania Weglowa became Polska Grupa Górnicza in May 2016) (PGG).

In Northern Bohemia, campaigners are fighting the expansion of lignite coal mines near the town of Most which feed several power stations. These mines threaten nearby homes as well as producing high levels of pollution when the lignite coal is burned. Companies researched: CEZ

The Rhineland coal area is Europe’s largest CO2 emitter and Germany is the largest producer of lignite coal. Expansion of these huge opencast mines threatens to engulf entire villages and forests. Companies researched: RWE

The Data (Follow the Money)

The table below presents a snapshot in time for the companies behind the 8 fossil fuel projects listed above. Research group Profundo analysed the loans and underwriting for the companies involved as well as the project-specific finance between January 2012 and September 2017.
Figures are in millions of $US dollars.

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Projects and Banks

Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) Groningen Gas Fields Midcat / STEP gas pipeline Gothenburg LNG terminal UK Fracking Rhineland Coal, Germany Polish Coal Czech Coal
Barclays 6,300 15790 830 830 4,870 690 n/a 790
Deutsche Bank 6,070 12,120 250 250 50 970 640 420
HSBC 8,200 14,480 100 580 180 220 250 n/a
BNP Paribas 11,680 6,630 1,100 1,730 n/a 460 1,000 160
Société Générale 8,770 5,640 1,100 1,100 n/a 800 630 310
UniCredit 5,820 n/a 90 140 n/a 600 1,050 130
Crédit Agricole 4,970 2,700 510 1,220 n/a 450 n/a n/a
UBS 6,330 1280 n/a n/a 660 880 260 120
Santander 4,740 2,600 1,730 1,730 170 560 750 90
Intesa Sanpaolo 4,990 520 620 770 n/a 380 n/a n/a

Connecting frontline resistance with distributed organising against the financiers

Building on the expertise, experiences and momentum of the global divestment movement, defund campaigns can offer an additional strategy for fighting specific projects. By removing the financial support for new projects, fossil fuel companies can find it harder to attract capital at profitable rates from banks elsewhere.

What are the tactics that will help us win? Disrupting business-as-usual at bank premises, backed up with strong press and social media campaigns and insider lobbying can create major public relations problems for banks – and erode their social licence to operate. We will need to both understand the tactics and strategies from previous victories and experiment with new ones in the future in order to mobilise most effectively.

Much of this work is already happening. With continued support, training and international links – the climate justice movement can create entry points for new organisers, shift the policies of major banks and continue the delegitimisation of the fossil fuel industry.

Starting a Campaign

Most of the banks with the worst climate records also have retail branches in villages, towns and cities across the continent – and many are headquartered in European capitals. Bank campaigners have already used these branches for decentralised protests in the past – allowing people who cannot travel to fossil fuel resistance sites to inflict brand damage on major banks in solidarity with those frontline struggles.

If we are ambitious and sufficiently well networked, there will be opportunities to continue to connect frontline resistance points with simultaneous, decentralised protests against particular banks. Picture a scenario where 400 people are physically opposing the construction of a new pipeline in one region of a country whilst creative protests by smaller groups take place at dozens of bank branches elsewhere. We have seen this model used with #DefundDAPL in 2016-17 (see below).

Questions to consider for Defund campaigns:

  1. What is the frontline fossil fuel resistance you would like to support?
  2. Are there any banks near you that are financing that project? (See table for details.)
  3. Do those bank(s) have branches where you could hold protests?
  4. Which other organisations are supporting that fight? It may be worth joining forces. There may be campaigns around the relevant banks already.
  5. Is the fossil fuel project expanding in any way? It can be easier to stop new project finance compared to demanding that banks blacklist entire fossil fuel companies.
  6. What is the bank’s policy on funding fossil fuels or a particular project?
  7. See tips on organising an action here.
  8. Download our bank infographics and PDF reports to assist your campaign.
Case study 1:

Spanish housing movements against the banks

Branch protest against Bankia, Madrid, 2018. Photo: Olmo Calvo

Having heavily promoted mortgages in the run up to the financial crisis of 2008, Spanish banks then pursued a programme of evictions against tenants who fell into mortgage arrears during the recession. Spanish housing activists from the PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages) successfully resisted some of these evictions both on the doorstep – but also by mounting escalating protests in bank branches. These included Santander, La Caixa, BBVA, Bankia, Caixa Catalunya, Popular and Sabadell.

Activists would support tenants in branch protests and refuse to leave until a new tenancy arrangement had been negotiated with the tenant. Senior bank officials would drive from company headquarters to the branches to negotiate with protesters. The PAH succeeded in creating a new type of tenancy that does not exist anywhere else in Europe : a social rent in bank-owned houses.

“With collective action, reality can be transformed to make possible what seemed impossible…..No speculation is tolerable when our lives are at stake.” Ada Colau, “How to Stop an Eviction.” (2011)

Use of escalation tactics

Activists would always visit the bank branch with an affected tenant. A first visit where an affected tenant would attempt to negotiate with the bank, supported by 1 or 2 activists. A second visit, perhaps, a fortnight later would bring five people, sometimes in T-shirts. A subsequent visit would bring ten extra people. The next visit would bring 20 extra people, and so on – escalating the levels of disruption and pressure on the bank.

Case study 2:

BNP Paribas vs The Climate

Protest by ANV-COP21 outside BNP Paribas. Photo: David Maurel

Campaigners in France have achieved significant successes with regards to the financing of fossil fuels – whilst recognising that there is still a long way to go. Between 2015 – 2017 BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and Natixis adopted policies that exclude project finance for new coal mines and new coal plants worldwide, and restrict general financing for some coal mining and coal power companies.

The campaign against BNP Paribas by Les Amis de la Terre, BankTrack and other organisations successfully combined both insider lobbying and outsider pressure.

  • AGM interventions. Representatives from frontline communities such as Esto’k Gna tribe in the USA who are threatened by proposed new fracked gas export terminals spoke directly to BNP Paribas shareholders at the company AGM in May 2017.
  • Research and report writing. Crunching the data and providing the facts helped articulate the evidence base for action.
  • Localised protests. Campaigners from several groups exposed BNP Paribas on the high street with creative protests inside local bank branches including the regular removal of bank branch furniture in ‘les faucheurs des chaises’ (‘Chair requisitioning’). The actions highlighted the bank’s role in facilitating tax avoidance for the rich which reduced the finance available for renewable energy. With all these actions well reported in the media, BNP Paribas name was dragged through the mud.
  • Insider advocacy. Whilst piling on the pressure on the outside, campaigners would also sit down with BNP Paribas in their headquarters to present arguments using expert testimony. It was the same organisation Les Amis de la Terre who applied both insider and outsider pressure – which counters the myth that campaigners should avoid disruptive protest if they want to be taken seriously by their adversaries.
Case study 3:


Wells Fargo protest, November 2016. Photo: John Duffy

As part of the resistance to the $3.8 billion Dakota Access PipeLine (DAPL), a 1,900 km project carrying oil across the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and six US states, indigenous leaders issued a call out for allies around the world to target the banks and financial institutions behind the main companies involved including Sunoco Logistics, Energy Transfer and  Dakota Access LLC.

In response, campaigns were coordinated across the USA urging institutions and individuals to move their money out of the banks supporting DAPL such as WellsFargo, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup. Defund DAPL activists teamed up with related campaigns against Well Fargo’s financing of payday loans, private prisons and immigrant detention centres. In February 2017, the city of Seattle voted to divest from Wells Fargo. Campaigners at Food & Water Watch produced infographics listing all the major financiers of DAPL.

In Europe, Norwegian pension fund KLP sold $58m worth of shares, following the lobbying by the Sami indigenous people living in the north of the country. Norwegian finance group DNB also sold its DAPL loan shares. In Sweden, students and Nordea customers were galvanised by images of police turning water cannon on protesters in freezing conditions at Standing Rock.  They held lunchtime protests on weekdays to disrupt business-as-usual in Nordea bank branches across the country – as did campaigners in the Netherlands against ING and ABN Amro.  BayernLB in Germany, BNP Paribas in France and Intesa Sanpaolo in Italy all sold their financial stakes in response to public pressure including coordinated international days of action. BBVA in Spain and Barclays in the UK were also targeted.


Financing to the following companies and projects was researched for the period January 2012-September 2017:

Trans Adriatic Pipeline AG: BP PLC, Azerbaijan Respublikasi Dovlat Neft Shirkati (SOCAR), SNAM SpA, Fluxys SA, Axpo Holding AG, Enagas.

UK fracking: Cuadrilla Resources Ltd, Third Energy Ltd, INEOS Group Ltd, Europa Oil and Gas (Holdings) plc. (No data was found for Cuadrilla Resources or Third Energy using the research methods.)

Midcat Gas pipeline: Enagas SA, Transport et Infrastructures Gaz France SA (note TIGF became Teréga in March 2018), GRTgaz SA, CEZ as,Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE),

Groningen gasfields: Royal Dutch Shell plc, Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Gothenburg Gas Terminal: Fluxys SA, Enagas, Swedegas AB.

Rhineland coal: RWE AG,

Polish coal: ENEA SA, ENERGA SA, Kompania Weglowa SA (became Polska Grupa Górnicza (PGG) in March 2016). New 1,000 MW coal-fired power unit at Ostrołęka power plant, New 500 MW coal-fired power unit in Turów, New coal-fired power plant near Bogdanka coal mine.

Czech coal: ČSA lignite mine expansion (Horní Jiřetín, Czech Republic), Expansion of Prunéřov coal-fired power station (Czech Republic)

Loans and bond- and share issuance underwriting were researched using Bloomberg and Thomson EIKON financial databases. Bond- and shareholdings were researched using Thomson EIKON, including input from the bond issuance underwriting research. Project finance was researched using IJGlobal and Trade Finance Analytics.


Download the Defund Fossil Fuels Guide