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.
Publication / 11 November 2020
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.
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.
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
Blog / 19 September 2019
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.
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 / 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.
Publication / 18 June 2017
News / 30 November 2016
Atradius Dutch State Business (Atradius DSB) remains responsible for observing social, environmental and human rights, also after providing export credit insurance. That is the conclusion of the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines in its final statement, which was published today. Both ENDS issued a press release about this.
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.
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.
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 / 22 November 2021
Export support – and especially that to fossil projects – has been in the spotlights quite often recently. This is a positive development, because the Netherlands alone provides fossil export support worth 1.5 billion euros per year. At the climate summit in Glasgow, the United Kingdom launched a statement promising to stop providing export support to fossil projects by the end of 2022. After having denied at first, the Netherlands decided to join the statement after all – which now has already been signed by nearly forty countries and financial institutions.