NatWest is under scrutiny from campaigners due to it financing fossil fuel developers while sponsoring the Cop26 climate summit
NatWest is the banking sponsor of the Glasgow conference — where countries will pledge to reduce carbon emissions as part of a wideranging global effort — but was still providing underwriting and loans to energy companies expanding in the Arctic as recently as last year.
According to a Reclaim Finance report detailing the funding of fossil fuel expansion in the Arctic, it backed oil and gas developers to the tune of $539m.
Banks funnelled $314bn in loans and underwriting to Arctic oil and gas expansionists from 2016 to 2020 in total, so the Cop26 sponsor’s half a billion in lending and underwriting is well down the list of lenders to the sector.
A NatWest spokesperson said the banking group “has strict environmental lending policies in place”, including in relation to Arctic exploration and its total financing pool has declined considerably.
“Oil and gas makes up less than 0.7 per cent of our total lending and we have committed to stop lending and underwriting to major oil and gas producers unless they have a credible transition plan in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement by the end of 2021.”
The bank, formerly known as RBS and led by Alison Rose, said its total exposure to the oil and gas sector decreased by £700m to £3.5bn in the first half of 2021, due to net repayments and the tighter lending criteria now in place for this sector.
The Reclaim Finance report found overall JPMorgan Chase was the biggest investor with $18.6bn, followed by Barclays ($13.2bn), Citigroup ($12.2 bn) and BNP Paribas ($11.8bn).
Investors are also holding around $272bn in Arctic fossil developers as of March of this year, with BlackRock ($28.5bn), Vanguard ($21.6bn) and Amundi ($12.9bn) leading the pack, all without Arctic exclusion policies.
NatWest was announced as the Cop26 banking partner last year. Other key sponsors include SSE, Unilever, Microsoft and GSK.