It was an inevitable decision, but that doesn’t make it any less dumbfounding: a few weeks ago the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed off a $500 million loan to finance TANAP, a gas pipeline that’s part of the biggest, most expensive new fossil fuel project in Europe – the Southern Gas Corridor. This investment in a carbon bomb is hard to swallow given the hundreds of lives lost to increasingly extreme weather events across Europe this year: the wildfires that ravaged Portugal, devastating drought and flooding in Italy, and the first time a hurricane threatened to make landfall in Europe.
Now let’s remind ourselves that this public bank is making the decision to use taxpayer money to finance Europe’s biggest new dirty energy project just two weeks before governments from around the world convene, in Germany, to lay out specific plans towards implementing the Paris Agreement — and this is starting to look like an insult.
The bank has made spurious claims that the Southern Gas Corridor will increase energy security by reducing Europe’s reliance on Russian gas and even contribute towards carbon-cutting efforts. According to the EBRD, pumping $500 million of public funds into a giant new pipeline, “will help provide a better energy supply mix for consumers in the Balkans and south-eastern Europe as well as achieve significant CO2 reductions through the substitution of obsolete coal-fired power plants.” But, this strikes a false note: Russian companies have already been contracted to send their gas to Europe through TANAP, and the EBRD have completely failed to undertake a climate impact analysis.
Wait!… there’s more. Another European public bank, the European Investment Bank (EIB), is lining up a similar $2 billion loan to finance another section of the same project known as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline or TAP. This will be the biggest loan that the bank has ever made, and they are proposing to invest it in a new fossil fuel project. The next board meeting where this decision could be made is during COP23 on November 14th.
Given the growing toxicity of the project it’s looking quite likely that the bank may try to push the decision back further and bury the announcement in the depths of winter. It is our job as a movement to make sure that any decision taken is made in the public spotlight, and if the project gets a green light, we must support the community on the ground to ensure it is never finalised. We know that disruption works. Delaying construction in as many ways as possible is how we helped mothball the Energy East pipeline.
“It is imperative to understand that corporations need banks to fund their fossil fuel projects, but banks do not need fossil fuel projects to make a profit. Kill the funding and kill the pipelines.“
Matt Remle (Lakota), Mazaska Talks
While we continue to appeal with reason to European authorities to stop building new fossil fuels, we can’t rely solely on that approach. We’ll need to find innovative ways of tackling these new infrastructure projects that allow for maximum participation regardless of people’s proximity to them.
Indigenous people in North America have already led the way, with the Divest the Globe actions — 3 days of powerful actions which focused on the finance provided by retail banks for the biggest fossil fuel projects across the globe.
— Matt Remle (@wakiyan7) October 23, 2017
Private retail banks, unlike public banks, can be found in every community. They are susceptible to public opinion and are keen to maintain a good public image in order to attract new customers. They are open to the public, easily accessible and therefore represent a strategic weak spot in the armour of the fossil finance industry.
Now is an opportune moment to organise and prepare to disrupt flows of finance to fossil fuels on a massive scale. We’ll need to be coordinated. We’ll need to be active in every community. Organising on banks will likely be an important part of creating that disruption. Are you ready?
[this blog was originally posted on 30 October and updated on 10 November]