The European Investment Bank (EIB) – the world’s largest public lender – has historically financed projects all over the world.

A few weeks ago, it made an important announcement that sent shock waves around the world’s banking networks. And it will have huge implications for investors.

Phasing Out Fossil Fuels

When the public and private sectors of the European Union need money, they turn to the EIB. It lends money to small companies through local banks.

The EIB never invests more than half the cost of any project. This attracts financing from other banks and private investors.

One of the EIB’s biggest areas of investment has been funding fossil fuel projects. Over the last five years, it’s funneled 13.4 billion pounds into fossil fuel projects.

Last year alone, it added another 2 billion pounds. But that is all coming to an end in 2022.

The EIB announced it will stop funding all fossil fuel projects at the end of 2021. Its new policy says it won’t fund any project that can’t produce 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity while emitting no more than 250 grams of carbon dioxide.

Here’s what EIB president Werner Hoyer said on the issue: “Climate is the top issue on the political agenda of our time.We will stop financing fossil fuels and we will launch the most ambitious climate investment strategy of any public financial institution anywhere.” 

The EIB isn’t the only bank getting out of fossil fuel. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, ING, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and HSBC have all announced a phaseout or hard stop to fossil fuel investing.

All of these banks want to be perceived as supporting the popular climate agenda, especially since the European Union is in full support of the Paris climate accord. Shareholder pressure to end investments in fossil fuel projects also continues to increase.

But halting climate change isn’t the only reason the EIB is closing its doors on these projects. Increasingly, it’s all about the economics of power generation.

The environmental and economic case for renewable energy is a solid one. The cost of producing renewable energy is, in most cases, below the cost of producing coal-powered energy…

Chart - The Economic Case for Renewables

What About American Banks?

Notice that there are no American banks in the list mentioned above. That’s because they all still fund fossil fuel projects.

Since the Paris Agreement, Canadian, Chinese, European, Japanese and U.S. banks have all continued to fund fossil fuel projects. Over the last three years, they have collectively lent $1.9 trillion to the industry.

And big U.S. banks are the worst offenders. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is the world’s biggest funder of fossil fuels.

Royal Bank of Canada (NYSE: RY), Barclays (NYSE: BCS), Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (NYSE: MUFG) and Bank of China Ltd. (OTC: BACHY) are the biggest offenders in their respective regions.

The reality is stark. There is no room for more fossil fuels in the Earth’s carbon budget.

Fossil fuel plants and coal mines are increasingly being held accountable for climate change. This is posing an increasing liability for the banks who finance them.

As these risks grow, I expect the U.S. banks and other big fossil fuel lenders will start to distance themselves from that sector. It’s a move that will allow us all to breathe easier.