Is the Netherlands’ export credit insurance support for fossil projects legal?
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.
Many export credit agencies (ECAs) continue to provide billions of euros in government-backed support to fossil projects. This also applies to Dutch ECA Atradius DSB. These projects not only increase emissions of greenhouse gases but also obstruct the transition to a sustainable economy in the Netherlands and elsewhere. This transition is however becoming increasingly urgent, if we are to achieve the goal laid down in the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5°C.
In the report, commissioned by Oil Change International, the authors analyse the obligations of states, whether acting through official ECAs or in relation to separate ECAs regulated by them, under international law.
The legal opinion was drawn up by lawyer Kate Cook of London-based law firm Matrix Chambers, an expert in international law, climate law and human rights, and professor Jorge E. Viñuales of the University of Cambridge, an expert in international law, climate and energy law, and investment law. In the report, they draw clear conclusions: 'If the extremely dangerous consequences of climate change are to be averted, ... there is no room for additional fossil fuel capacity and existing capacity or its emissions must be reduced urgently and proactively.'
Five clear recommendations
According to the authors, countries must take the following five steps to comply with their international obligations in relation to export credit support and climate change:
a) not to finance new fossil fuel-related projects/activities or increase the financing of existing ones;
b) to decrease existing support within a clear timeframe dictated, first and foremost, by scientific considerations;
c) to proactively avoid 'locking-in' fossil fuel-related projects/activities which may use up a significant part of the remaining carbon budget;
d) to adopt and proactively implement adequate procedures to assess the carbon footprint of any project to be potentially supported;
e) to adopt and proactively implement guidelines concerning the performance of the activities of the relevant ECA in the context of climate change.
Export Finance for Future coalition
Three weeks ago, the Netherlands and a number of other countries launched the Export Finance for Future coalition. The Netherlands wishes to play an active role in the coalition and is organising its next meeting. We see this as an excellent opportunity to ensure that the coalition complies with prevailing obligations under international law to terminate ECA support for the fossil sector.
Together with Oil Change International and Dutch environmental organisation Milieudefensie, Both ENDS has drawn the attention of the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs to the legal opinion.
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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.
Both ENDS calls on the government only to provide export credit insurance to sustainable projects that cause no social and/or environmental damage in the countries where they take place.
Letter / 4 May 2023
The Dutch government, through its export credit agency Atradius DSB (ADSB), provides export support to companies that undertake activities abroad. The state wants projects it insures to have no negative consequences for people and the environment and therefore sets requirements for corporate social responsibility (CSR). A consultation on CSR policy ran until the end of April, to which a coalition of thirteen social organisations from the Netherlands and abroad, including Both ENDS and Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth the Netherlands), responded.
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."
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).
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.
News / 21 July 2020
At the end of last week, oil and gas company Total announced that, through its export credit insurer Atradius DSB, the Dutch government is participating in a funding package for a controversial gas extraction project in Mozambique. The project, in which various Dutch and foreign companies are involved, is having a deep impact on the local population and the natural environment in the area. Which Dutch companies the government will be insuring is not yet clear.
Publication / 11 November 2020
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.
Publication / 15 March 2023
News / 30 June 2020
Almost 40 civil society organisations and networks from around the world, including Both ENDS, today sent a letter to Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag and State Secretary for Finance Hans Vijlbrief. They are asking the ministers to ensure that the expansion of export credit insurance as a result of the Corona crisis contributes to a green recovery.
News / 28 August 2017
Last June, Both ENDS published a report which showed clearly that, through export credit insurance provider Atradius Dutch State Business (ADSB), the Netherlands is supporting the fossil fuel sector on a large scale. Between 2012 and 2015, ADSB provided billions of euros in insurance and guarantees, on behalf of the State of the Netherlands, to fossil-related export projects. This support is completely out of line with the Paris Climate Agreement. On 20 June, members of parliament Lammert van Raan (PvdD) and Sandra Beckerman (SP) submitted questions to the State Secretaries for Finance and for Infrastructure and the Environment.
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.
Blog / 19 September 2019
Reward high-risk international business projects investing in a green future and stop support for the international fossil industry
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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.
Publication / 17 November 2019
Press release / 3 November 2022
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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.
Publication / 18 June 2017