A forgotten opportunity worth 1.5 billion euros
Reward high-risk international business projects investing in a green future and stop support for the international fossil industry
The climate is 'hot'. Everyone is talking about it. 'Everyone needs to do something' calls the government in its recently started public campaign. Good plan. Let's really do something. For a start, we can stop supporting international trade in fossil energy by our own multinationals. That would free up 1.5 billion euros which we could use to combat climate change on an international scale and at the same time give our own innovative businesses a boost. Today's Vergeten Klimaattafel (Forgotten Climate Roundtable) will discuss the opportunities for the Netherlands to have a real impact. And those opportunities are enormous. Because our big money and our influence lie beyond our borders.
Everyone in the Netherlands regularly feels the need to 'do something' for the climate but, at the same time, feels that a small country like ours can't make a real difference. But you can do more that you think. Amidst all the talk about climate agreements and climate tables, we've forgotten the part we play in international trade chains. For centuries, our small country has been a leading player in international trade. Our multinationals are active all over the world, from the burning forests of the Amazon to the flooded deltas of Asia. In all those areas, our government helps these companies invest by giving them subsidies and guarantees. And that's where the opportunities lie.
That the Netherlands has a large fossil footprint is beyond doubt. The PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has calculated that our climate footprint is as large beyond our borders as within them. And that's based only on emissions from our production and consumption. It doesn't take account of, for example, our financing of oil and gas extraction or the construction of fossil infrastructure. Promoted by the Port of Rotterdam, we build ports all over the world that often have close contacts with the fossil sector. Our shipbuilders are experts at building vessels to transport gas and oil. Our agriculture, and especially the agricultural model promoted by the Netherlands, makes an enormous contribution to climate change. We can only guess at the contribution of our financial sector to the fossil industry; we have no idea of how much banks have invested in fossil fuels, but we do know that the ABP pension fund has invested at least €15 billion in fossil companies.
Our biggest opportunity abroad lies with the activities we implement or finance ourselves. Let me give an example: the Dutch government issues an estimated 1.5 billion euros a year to companies active in the international fossil industry. Doing business abroad often involves serious financial risks. If the project is large enough, the Dutch government is willing to provide insurance against payment risks. Without such insurance, banks are not prepared to provide financing. The insurance is provided on behalf of all of us and is, in theory, available to all sectors of the economy. In practice, however, it mainly supports fossil initiatives like new oil and gas projects abroad.
Next week, the government is organising a meeting on greening export credit insurance. But to encourage companies to become greener, we need to provide insurance for green rather than grey projects. That means turning off the gas not only in Groningen but in many other places as well. Let's stop supporting companies active in the fossil sector and help high-risk investments in innovation.
The two main questions to be addressed at today's Climate Roundtable are therefore: "how do we stop supporting the fossil sector both at home and abroad?" and "what should we invest in?" Without answering the first question, we will not be able to solve the climate problem. Let us use our innovative knowledge and activities to grasp the opportunity to lead the innovation the world needs. We should pick the low-hanging fruit, starting with export credit insurance. And only reward high-risk international business projects that work towards fossil-free future.
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Almost two-thirds of the export credit insurances that Atradius DSB provided in the 2012-2018 period went to the fossil energy sector. That is contrary to the climate agreements that the Netherlands signed in Paris.
News / 4 May 2021
Today, two independent experts brought out a legal opinion on the obligations of countries and their export credit agencies under international law in relation to export support for fossil fuels. According to the report, emissions by fossil fuels and the related infrastructure need to be reduced urgently.
Publication / 17 November 2019
News / 12 July 2021
At the beginning of this year, the Dutch government provided Dutch companies with export insurance worth 903 million euros to enable them to participate in a gigantic natural gas project in the north of Mozambique. Together with partners from Mozambique and the Netherlands, Both ENDS has been conducting a dialogue with export credit agency Atradius DSB and the responsible Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs on the possible financial, environmental and social risks of the gas project.
Press release / 26 March 2019
Wealthy Dutch investors to disinvest personal capital worth 200 million euros from the fossil industry
Joint press release from Both ENDS and Fossielvrij NL - 26 March 2019
A group of 22 wealthy Dutch investors have decided to disinvest all their personal capital, worth a total of 200 million euros, from the top 200 oil, gas and coal companies. The investors have pledged to disinvest all their capital from the fossil industry within three to five years. By doing so, they are giving a clear signal that they do not want their capital to contribute to disastrous climate change.
Publication / 18 June 2017
Publication / 11 November 2020
Press release / 18 November 2019
The Netherlands provides export credit insurances and guarantees worth 1.5 billion euros annually to Dutch companies active in the oil and gas sector abroad. This support amounts to one and a half times the annual amount that the Cabinet of Prime Minister Rutte mobilises for climate initiatives worldwide. The intended effects of Dutch international climate policy are more than offset by this fossil export support. That is the conclusion of a new report from Both ENDS which is published today.
Blog / 29 January 2019
The climate debate in the Netherlands is bogged down in what we can change at home and does not touch on our actions abroad. And that is a missed opportunity. Precisely because our international trade model is both so influential and, at the same time, such a widespread cause of pollution, changes in that policy can have an immediate effect.
Press release / 11 November 2020
Since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, rich countries have provided almost 50 times as much export support for fossil fuel related projects as for clean energy projects in four African countries. This is the conclusion of a report written by five environmental organisations from Ghana, Nigeria, Togo and Uganda, in cooperation with Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Both ENDS. The rich countries insured energy projects with a total value of 11 billion US dollars through their export credit agencies (ECAs). More than half of this export support is related to fossil fuels. Only 1% went to sustainable renewable energy.
In 2011 one of the world’s largest gas reserves was found in the coastal province of Cabo Delgado, in the north of Mozambique. A total of 35 billion dollars has been invested to extract the gas. Dozens of multinationals and financiers are involved in these rapid developments. It is very difficult for the people living in Cabo Delgado to exert influence on the plans and activities, while they experience the negative consequences. With the arrival of these companies, they are losing their land.
News / 7 October 2018
We are very proud that our director Daniëlle Hirsch has been included again in the ‘Sustainable 100’ (an annual ranking list published by Dutch newspaper Trouw), and has gone up more than 40 spots compared to last year! Danielle was included in the list because of the many things she does with her organisation as a whole, but she got the higher ranking for the way she combines her criticism of the destructive role of the Netherlands as a trading nation and large cause of CO2 emissions in the world (often supported by the Dutch government), with a constructive attitude when it comes to finding alternatives and solutions.
News / 11 December 2017
Yesterday, the French President Macron, the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, met with international leaders and committed citizens from around the world in Paris. According to the organisers, the aim of this gathering was to 'address the ecological emergency for our planet' as 'two years to the day after the historic Paris Agreement, it is time for concrete action.'
Event / 20 September 2019, 19:30
Last June, after months of negotiations in five different 'climate roundtables', the Dutch government presented its Climate Agreement . Negotiations had taken place in a roundtable for 'industry', for 'built environment', for 'electricity', 'mobility' and for 'agriculture and land use'. Climate measures that the Netherlands can take within its borders are pretty much covered by these climate roundtables. But the Netherlands also has a huge climate footprint outside its borders. It seems we have forgotten about the 'International' Climate Roundtable.
External link / 31 May 2018
In 2017 Both ENDS stepped up its efforts to stop the Dutch government from supporting the fossil fuel industry. Phasing out fossil fuels is key to achieving the goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement. To Both ENDS, there is another reason: fossil fuel-related projects often have disastrous effects for the poorest people in the Global South.
News / 13 July 2021
The government provides an average of 1.5 billion euros a year in export support for fossil projects by Dutch companies, in the form of insurance and guarantees. The climate crisis requires that the Netherlands and other countries stop providing export support for fossil energy projects, whether it be coal, oil or gas, before the end of this year.
News / 14 March 2021
A number of our colleagues at Both ENDS made a lot of noise at various locations around the country today, as part of the national Klimaatalarm (Climate Alarm) campaign. Annelieke Douma gave a short speech in Haarlem on the major role played by the Netherlands in climate change and environmental degradation beyond our borders. She made a number of suggestions that would immediately make Dutch foreign policy a lot more climate-friendly. Below is the text of her speech.
Press release / 19 May 2021
Amsterdam, 19 May 2021 – On 25 March, a day after violent attacks in northern Mozambique, the Dutch state decided to provide dredging company Van Oord with export credit insurance worth 900 million euros for its activities in the country. The company is conducting dredging operations for a highly controversial gas project that, according to Mozambican interest groups, is playing a prominent role in the escalating violence in the region. Civil society organisations Both ENDS, Milieudefensie and Oil Change International and their Mozambican partners are alarmed about the situation and have called the Dutch government and Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB to account.
Event / 10 March 2019, 13:00 - 16:00
On Sunday the 10th of March 2019 Both ENDS will be taking part in what is expected to become the largest climate march in The Netherlands as of yet. The march is organised by Milieudefensie, Greenpeace, Oxfam Novib, FNV, De Goede Zaak and the Woonbond and supported by Both ENDS and a large number of diverse civil society organisations. Together, we demand a safe future for ourselves, our children and for all people whose lives have already been or will soon be made almost impossible because of the effects of climate change such as droughts, disease, floods or food shortages.
News / 15 April 2021
On Wednesday, April 14, seven countries, including the Netherlands, launched an initiative called Export Finance for Future (E3F), in which they set a number of ambitions with regard to phasing out export support for the fossil sector. Many NGOs worldwide, including Both ENDS in the Netherlands, have been calling for such an initiative in recent years and we are therefore pleased with this step. However, to achieve results and contribute to the Paris climate goals, countries will have to commit to much more ambitious goals than those now set. Concerned civil society organizations, including Both ENDS, therefore prepared a statement detailing the weaknesses they felt in the policy proposed by E3F, supplemented with recommendations for improvements.