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.
News / 4 November 2022
Climate action is urgently needed to slow down global warming. The effects of climate change are already showing themselves. Floods in Pakistan and closer to us, in the Netherlands, are causing loss of life and much emotional and economic damage, while local climate solutions are still largely being ignored. That's why Both ENDS is going to participate in COP27, the climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Event / 4 November 2021, 16:45 - 18:00
UNFCCC COP 26 side event ‘Aligning export finance with the Paris Agreement: high time to phase out fossil fuels’
Many countries heavily support fossil fuel investments abroad through their export credit agency (ECA). This contributes to carbon lock- in, whereby companies or even countries commit themselves to a certain amount of greenhouse gas emissions for the lifetime of the infrastructure — oftentimes years or even decades. This seriously delays the transition to renewable energy sources, and is certainly not in line with Art. 2.1c of the Paris Agreement.
Highlighting the impacts caused by export finance in the global South, this side event will provide concrete recommendations to decarbonize export credit agencies.
News / 15 October 2021
The Dutch export credit agency Atradius DSB is not aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement; on behalf of the Dutch State, it continues to strongly support investments in fossil fuels. This is the conclusion of a report by German research agency Perspectives Climate Research (PCR), in which the export credit agencies of the Netherlands and Japan are measured in terms of their climate ambitions and alignment with the Paris Agreement.
Press release / 19 May 2022
122 CSOs warn signatory countries they have only six months left to meet COP26 commitment to end international public finance for all fossil fuels
Today, 122 civil society groups are releasing letters to eleven government signatories to the Glasgow Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition, laying out the actions they must take as soon as possible to meet their commitment. In this joint statement at COP26, 35 countries and 5 public finance institutions committed to end their international public finance for 'unabated' fossil fuels by the end of 2022, and instead prioritise their "support fully towards the clean energy transition."
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
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 / 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.
News / 19 May 2022
Both ENDS and 95 other organisations* today sent a letter to State Secretary for Finance Marnix van Rij and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher calling on them to implement the Glasgow Declaration in full. In this agreement, which the Netherlands and 33 other countries signed at the Glasgow climate conference, the signatory countries pledge to stop all public funding for fossil projects by the end of 2022.
External link / 24 August 2022
Both ENDS works with partners worldwide to amplify the voices of communities that are experiencing first-hand the devastating social and environmental impacts of unsustainable financial policies and practices – from climate change to pollution to forced displacement. For more than two decades, we have worked to draw attention to an obscure, yet hugely influential type of financial institution: export credit agencies (ECAs).
Publication / 15 March 2023
Publication / 11 November 2020
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.
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.
Despite the existence of many hydropower dams, foreign investments and large government spending on energy, and new plans for hydropower, oil and gas projects, the vast majority of rural Uganda still remains without electricity. Together with our local partners we are striving towards a sustainable energy strategy for Uganda that starts from the needs and wishes of local communities.