« What is simple is necessarily wrong, what is complicated is inapplicable ». With this aphorism, the « mathematician of letters », the French poet and writer Paul valéry reminded us of the complexity of the answers that men must provide, even to seemingly simple things. And yet, a majority of countries today seem to make the principle of national sovereignty their own. To date, the UN has not fully succeeded in bringing out the more « globalised » concept of sovereignty « of » nations. Perhaps because, ironically, what is « globalised » today escapes human beings and is the prerogative of banks and capitalism. Yet, often, capitalism’s money comes from the banks whose clients are de facto shareholders. Citizens can in fact interfere in the banks’ orientations. Despite the global commitment to preserve forests, banks have lent more than $150 billion to companies that unsustainably exploit forests or destroy them for industrial or agricultural purposes.
Between 2016 and April 2020, the banks have granted $154 billion in credit to companies that exploit the forest (timber and rubber) or set up agricultural activities – livestock, soybeans, pulp and paper, palm oil – on deforested land. Banks lend on the one hand and invest on the other: according to the same study, investors also hold $37 billion in shares in these companies. « We started our survey in 2016 just after the Paris Accord in December 2015, and the promise of a global commitment to forest conservation. But we see that the amount of credit in these three basins has actually increased by 40% since the agreement was signed, » explains Merel van der Mark, coordinator of the Forests and Finance coalition.
She notes that « despite the commitments made by states and companies, the loss of tropical forest cover has almost doubled over the last ten years. It even accelerated last year with the staggering disappearance of 11.9 million hectares of tropical forests. What responsibility do the banks have for this result? We cannot say that they are directly responsible for deforestation, but it is clear that the banks could be key players in halting the deterioration of forests if they put in place ecological criteria for awarding credits, » says Merel van der Mark.
These banks include several large French groups such as BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, BPCE Group (ibidem).
The environmental NGO Global Witness recalls that « The law on the duty of vigilance, a pioneering piece of legislation adopted in March 2017, obliges French companies of a certain size to identify, mitigate and prevent human rights violations and environmental damage in their supply chains and financing activities ».
The French State itself seems to have taken note of its responsibilities.
« In 2019, President Macron has led several global initiatives to stop climate change: the One Planet Summit in Paris on financing for climate action; his call for financing for the protection of the Amazon at the G7 meeting in August; the Alliance for the Preservation of Forests, launched at the UN General Assembly last September and confirmed in December at COP25 in Madrid alongside a coalition of Brazilian states in favour of protecting the Amazon rainforest; and the Alliance for Biodiversity, also launched in Madrid.
France is one of the few countries to have already recognised the role of its own consumption and investment in increasing deforestation, and has committed itself to addressing this by adopting a National Strategy to Combat Imported Deforestation. As such, France has notably committed itself to make financing responsible and to encourage financial actors to systematically integrate the fight against deforestation into their policies and investment strategies ». (Ibidem)
Therefore, we, as citizens, must be attentive to the origin of the meat we eat, the origin of the soya we consume, the origin of the wood we use or buy.
For more informations:
Rapport de Canopée. Septembre 2020
Déforestation en Amazonie : des pistes pour mettre fin aux importations françaises de soja
Actu-Environnement. 15 septembre 2020
Déforestation: les banques mises en cause
Journal de l’environnement. 1 septembre 2020.
Le rôle des banques françaises dans la destruction des forêts mondiales
Global Witness. 10 février 2020.