Billions of euros for fossil fuels – again?

Next week, Christine Lagarde and the other heads of the European Central Bank will announce hundreds of billions of euros more in emergency recovery funding, to help Europe through the second wave of lockdowns and the difficult winter ahead.

But without any safeguards in place, this money will likely end up funding coal, oil and gas corporations like Shell and Total. [1] Companies with well documented links to environmental destruction, human rights abuses, and massive CO2 emissions that are fuelling the climate crisis. [2]


How is the European Central Bank funding climate criminals?

Shell, Total, Fortum/Uniper, Eni. These European companies have benefited from the ECB’s bond-buying programme, and money meant for post-pandemic recovery. Here’s what this money is indirectly funding.

Fracking in Argentina

Shell and Total are both involved in fracking in Argentina, which has destroyed lands and livelihoods of indigenous people.

Fracking is banned in most of Europe, so European oil corporations Shell and Total, and the HSBC bank, took their dirty business to Vaca Muerta, Argentina. There, they exploit some of the biggest shale oil and gas reserves in the world. Fracking is destroying the environment and threatening the indigenous Mapuche people’s ancestral lands and livelihoods, despite their fierce opposition.

Shell and Total have both benefited from the European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme fueled with Covid-19 economic recovery funds.

Read more about the Vaca Muerta case

Drilling in the Amazon

European fossil fuel companies BP, Shell and Total are all looking to drill for oil and gas in Brazil.

The Brazilian government is about to auction off rights to oil extraction on lands held by indigenous communities, in some of the world’s most important natural areas, including the Amazon rainforest.

European companies would trample on indigenous rights, destroy vulnerable ecosystems, and further fuel the climate crisis to fuel their greed. These same companies have benefited from the Covid-19 pandemic recovery funds under the European Central Bank’s bond-buying programme.

Read more about the Brazil oil auctions

Fossil gas in Mozambique

The French oil giant Total is driving forward a neo-colonial fossil gas mega-project in Mozambique

Total’s working with the support of several European banks and governments. Since the start of the project, local people in the region have suffered a spike in human rights abuses, corruption and violence.

While Total enjoys the profits, the real price of the massive fossil gas terminal is being paid by local communities in Mozambique, with the loss of lives and livelihoods, and the long-term impacts of climate breakdown.

The European Central Bank has been supporting Total through its Covid19 response programme. You can read more about it here.

Oil Pipeline in East Africa

Total is the company behind the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline – a mega oil project to extract and transport oil for export.

Other than filling Total executives’ pockets with dirty profits, the construction of the pipeline will displace local communities in Uganda and Tanzania, destroy protected natural reserves, wreck farmlands and local people’s lives and livelihoods, contaminate local water sources and further fuel the burning climate crisis.

All this with the support of European Central Bank’s Covid-19 recovery funding, some of which has benefited Total through ECB’s unrestricted bond buying programme.

Read more about the pipeline


There is a simple choice facing Lagarde next week. Her bank can keep on supporting the companies responsible for the climate crisis, such as Shell and Total, or choose to protect people and our planet.

We think there’s only one right choice here: the ECB must stop supporting climate criminals by excluding them from its recovery funds.

The ECB funds the climate crisis by indiscriminately purchasing bonds – basically, long-term, low interest corporate debt issued by big companies. We have a good reason to be worried, because we’ve seen this money end up in the pockets of fossil fuel executives before. [3] Oil and gas giants have taken advantage of this no-strings-attached European money, meant to help Europe recover from the pandemic, to boost their profits.

At the same time, their core business — digging for and burning fossil fuels — destroys our hopes of avoiding the worst impacts of the climate crisis. It also threatens the lands and livelihoods of vulnerable local and Indigenous populations — in the Amazon, Argentina, Mozambique, East Africa and other parts of the world.

The hundreds of billions of euros the ECB will inject into the economy over the coming months must be used to strengthen our public services, to help workers and the most vulnerable — to build a sustainable and just future for everyone.

Our campaign has already pushed President Lagarde to express support for ambitious climate action. She’s showing that she heard our demands and she cares about her legacy. But so far, these are just words, and promises for the future. We have no time to waste. We must act now to make sure she chooses the right path, before it’s too late.

Take action and tell President Lagarde: “You have a huge responsibility today. What legacy do you want to leave behind?”



[1] Quantitative easing and climate: The ECB’s dirty secret

[2] Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions

[3] ECB coronavirus response injects €7.6 billion into fossil fuels companies

[4] Your Voice: delivered to the European Central Bank

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