News / 13 december 2013

The polluter pays... but who pays the polluter?

‘The polluter pays’ is a good principle, but what about the institutions that financially support polluting companies and projects?  Shouldn’t banks, that are often major investors in unsustainable activities, take their responsibility and pay as well? In the end, these banks also cash in. Pieter Jansen of Both ENDS contributed to research about the ‘Green Credit Policy’ of Chines banks, executed by the Chinese NGO ‘Green Watershed’. Pieter Jansen of Both ENDS and Chen Yu of Green Watershed have launched the report 'Green Credit Footprints of Chinese Banks'.

What is ‘Green Credit Policy’?

Since 2008 Chinese banks are obliged to invest in sustainable companies instead of companies that are responsible for pollution, the so called ‘Green Credit Policy’. For the past five years Green Watershed has been trying to research on investment policies of banks. That is not an easy job since banks are often reluctant to share information. “Most of the Chinese banks I only saw from the outside”, says Jansen. The outcome of the research is mixed.


Banks that finance pollution should pay

In China polluters are liable to prosecution, but banks investing in these polluters are never prosecuted. Green Watershed has searched for the banks behind polluting companies to make them aware of their responsibilities. “But that is just the beginning”, says Jansen. “To create real ‘green’ banks supervision and control is needed. The ‘Green Credit Policy’ is indeed obligatory, but at the moment the Chinese ‘Banking Regulatory Commission’ has insufficient control.


Fewer rules

For years the World Bank has been recommending countries to deregulate their banking sector. Chinese leaders would like to apply that policy. According to Green Watershed it is therefore increasingly important that NGOs exist in China to monitor social- and environmental policies of banks. Green Watershed has a long history of urging Chinese banks to start dialogues. Jansen supports Green Watershed in connecting them with international banks operating in China. “They too have to comply with the ‘Green Credit Policy’ of the Chinese government; in a follow-up report we will examine their behaviour.”



Both ENDS has been stressing the importance of improvement of the social and environmental standards (“safeguards”) of the World Bank. According to Jansen, banks worldwide refer to the World Bank as a model for standards for social and green banking. “The World Bank has an exemplary role. Projects financed by the World Bank should be beneficial for the development of local population. But more than often projects are damaging to the local population and environment. The World Bank is even planning to weaken its social and environmental regulations. The Bank wants to avoid companies switching to banks like the Chinese that now have softer regulations. This is a bad strategy: the people in China are entitled to improvement in social and environmental regulations in finance. Together with Green Watershed we are going to convince the World Bank about these needs and stimulate her to lead the way by good example.”



Press release report 'Green Credit Footprints of Chinese banks'

Short english version of report

Website Green Watershed

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