Index for May 2021

Volume 20, Issue 5

  • ECAs and Fossil Fuels

    (ECA Watch, Ottawa, 29 May 2021) TXF News recently pronounced Mozambique's LNG Area 1 project as the winner of its energy financing ECA-backed deal of the year, highlighting the "battle" between coal and gas (and oil) in the industry's efforts to survive efforts to halt climate change, following the International Energy Agency's (IEA) recent warning that we must reduce CO2 emmissions to net-zero by 2050. The IEA report on May 18 noted that "nations around the world would need to immediately stop approving new coal-fired power plants and new oil and gas fields and quickly phase out gasoline-powered vehicles if they want to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change." A recent Oil Change International legal opinion has also warned about the legal consequences of continuing to back fossil fuel projects elsewhere in the world. The fossil fuel industry and some governments had begun to make noises about ceasing funding for coal, claiming that LNG is "safer", hence TXF's apparent "praise" for the US$29 billion ECA backed Mozambique LNG project. However, a 2018 Rentar Environmental Solutions study notes that natural gas contributes more to global warming than coal, gasoline and diesel, far more in fact. UKEF funding of Mozambique's LNG plans are now the subject of a UK court review as well as the subject of an EXIM scandal over its loan guarantee for a Greensill Capital investment in a Texas gas terminal, approved to dampen US fossil fuel industry opposition to EXIM's support for their competitor Anadarko Petroleum's 26.5% share in the huge Mozambique LNG project. To round off the controversies, Total's Mozambique operations, the recipient of multiple ECA financial supports, have had to be cancelled as the result of a jihadist assault on a nearby town.

  • (OECD, Paris, May 2021) This OECD report looks at support governments provide to their industrial producers which they say has been a growing source of trade tensions amid reports of excess capacity and unfair competition. While much light has already been shed on support to agricultural producers and fisheries, the scope and scale of government support in manufacturing remains opaque and poorly documented. The study finds that firms benefit by not being subject to the same market discipline as their competitors, domestic or foreign. However, they note that much of the little academic evidence that exists for OECD countries concerns either the effects of subsidised lending on small and medium-sized enterprises (e.g. from a regional development angle) or export credits. They note that both issues fall outside the scope of the present report. The claim "export credits are in principle subject to the OECD Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits and should therefore reflect market terms and conditions for Participants." A review of the keywords "eca subsidies" on the ECA Watch web site found 97 example documenting the fact that export credits do not reflect "market terms and conditions for Participants", contrary to the claims of the OECD "gentlemans" agreement.

  • (Bank Watch, Nijmegan, 18 May 2021) The International Energy Agency (IEA) has launched a long-awaited report setting out for the first time an energy scenario that is aligned with the urgent goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. The Agency sets this out in its report, “Net Zero by 2050: A roadmap for the global energy sector”, which it claims is “one of the most important and challenging undertakings in the IEA’s history”. Although not without problems, its headline conclusion is rock-solid: there can be no new fossil fuels in a net-zero by 2050 pathway. This conclusion is fully aligned with one of the core demands of the global call on banks on the new Fossil Banks No Thanks platform, launched yesterday. Unfortunatly the report makes no reference to the role of ECAs which are amongst the largest financial supporters of new fossil fuel projects.

  • (National Observer, Vancouver, 5 May 2021) EDC's financial support to the oil and gas sector came under scrutiny Tuesday as part of a new legal opinion outlining Canada’s obligations in responding to the climate crisis. The legal opinion from London says governments must take steps to stop their export credit agencies from providing financial help to oil and gas projects worldwide. EDC provided over $8 billion in support last year to the oil and gas sector, it has confirmed, and over $10 billion the year before. EDC says it operates at arm's length from the government, that it has cut down on its lending portfolio’s exposure to high-carbon sectors in recent years, and complies with all the OECD climate-related policies. Viñuales and Cook’s legal opinion explicitly singles out EDC as representing the largest supporter among G20 export credit agencies of fossil fuels during the 2016-18 period. EDC’s climate change policy — and some criticism levied against it related to oil and gas — is also highlighted.

  • (Reuters, London, 18 May 2021) A group of mostly Green Party lawmakers from the European Parliament on Wednesday urged the leaders of Germany, France and Italy not to support a Russian Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG) project due to climate change concerns. The $21 billion project, led by Russian gas producer Novatek and with international backers including French oil major Total TOTF.PA, is expected to launch in 2023 and reach full LNG production capacity of almost 20 million tonnes a year in 2026. "We urge the French, German and Italian governments to refuse to support this project and set a new standard by ending all export finance support to fossil fuels before COP26," the letter said.

  • (Just Finance International, Aarhus, 25 May 2021) A forthcoming report from Just Finance International outlines recommendations to the Danish government for plans to phase out fossil fuel support for its export credit agency (ECA) Eksport Kredit Fonden (EKF) and also for its broader international public finance support. Public development funds are meant to benefit people, climate and environment, but in reality they support some of the most destructive activities on earth. Coal power is the world’s most polluting energy source, and the largest contributor to climate change. Yet public funds are still financing new investments in coal and other highly polluting industries. In response to worsening climate change, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has announced that financial and governmental support of high-emission sectors must be decreased, and climate resilience increased. The UN IPCC has made clear that all untouched fossils must stay in the ground and all subsidies must stop if the Paris climate goals are to be  reached. In line with the Paris Agreement goals, governments and their institutions worldwide are taking steps to phase out fossil fuels. In this report, a screening of Danish ECA EKF’s portfolio shows that while its investments in fossil fuels are limited, it has several projects in high-greenhouse gas emission (GHG) sectors such as cement, hydropower and mining, and in the livestock and chemical sectors. It is also likely to increase its involvement in cement and hydropower in the coming years. Because export credit agencies are demand-driven, their portfolios reflect the applications they receive. Clear regulations are essential to prevent ECA support for fossil fuels and other high-emission sectors in the future.

  • (Second Line of Defense, Virginia, 5 May 2021) France welcomed May 4 an Egyptian announcement of an order for a further 30 Rafale fighter jets and weapons from Dassault Aviation, MBDA and Safran, confirming a news report on Disclose, a French campaigning website. The Egyptian deal was worth a total €3.95 billion ($4.7 billion), with €3.75 billion for the Rafales, and €200 million for weapons from MBDA and Safran Electronics & Defense. Because Egypt is heavily indebted, the acquisition will be financed by an export credit guaranteed bank loan backed by France for up to 85 percent of the total amount.

  • (Daily News, Colombo, 13 May 2021) The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in its response to concerns raised by the Opposition on the Government’s move to purchase new helicopters from Russia amidst the COVID pandemic, said the purchase was on a Government-to-Government basis via a Line of Credit offered to Sri Lanka to purchase military hardware from Russia which is still being negotiated over several years. Russia had offered Sri Lanka a US$ 300 million Credit Line, from which 14 Mi-171E and Mi-171Sh helicopters were bought down in 2010 at a cost of US$ 165 million, some of which are currently being used for UN peace keeping operations. He said that there was a balance of US$ 135 million which lapsed in 2015, but it was renewed by Russia to allow Sri Lanka to purchase a Gepard 5.1 Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) for the Sri Lanka Navy. However, since the Navy had found a less costly alternative, Russia had agreed to allow that amount to purchase Mi-17 helicopters.

  • (The Journal, Dublin, 18 May 2021) Belarus was increasingly isolated today as Europe cut air links and calls grew for more action over its diversion of an airliner and arrest of a dissident on board. The Swedish Export Credit Agency (EKN) said today it was withdrawing export guarantee offers for deals involving two state-owned Belarusian companies, citing failure to live up to human rights standards. The guarantee offers, which totalled two billion Swedish kronor (€197 million), concerned the sale of gas turbines from a Swedish subsidiary of Germany’s Siemens and state-owned Belarusian energy companies RUE Minskenergo and RUE Brestenergo.

  • (Africa Report, Paris, 24 May 2021) Facing pressure from the public and Western regulators, as well as from shareholders and financial partners, oil industry majors, especially those based in Europe – chiefly Shell, BP, Total and Eni – have initiated an unprecedented transformation by voluntarily reducing their crude oil activities in favour of [so called] “greener” forms of energy. This may be good news for environmental activists, but not so for Africa’s oil-producing countries that benefit from the tax revenues and jobs the industry brings. In the global race to reduce carbon emissions, Africa is a bystander rather than an active participant. The continent produces 9% of the world’s liquefied petroleum gas (oil) – or 7.2m barrels a day – and 6% of its natural gas, while being a low emitter of greenhouse gases. Home to 17% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for just 2% of global carbon emissions. In addition, more than half of its oil production is for export. Shell’s stated goal, backed by the European Union and the UK, is to become carbon neutral by 2050. Europe’s oil majors, while not required to meet any legal obligations at this stage, have integrated this target across their operations. It takes into account the end use of the fuels they sell (scope 3 emissions), which is by far the largest factor in carbon emissions. For example, the French group Total’s direct emissions amount to around 45m metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, but its vehicle-related emissions are estimated to be as high as 450m metric tonnes.

  • (Royal Caribbean Blog, Winter Garden, 29 April 2021) While Royal Caribbean did lose $1.1 billion or $4.66 per share compared to US GAAP Net Loss, that is an improvement over the same time last year, when it lost $1.4 billion. Among the actions taken during the first quarter of 2021 to help include completing the balance of the previously announced amendments to its export credit facilities, which in total defer $1.15 billion of principal amortization due before April 2022 and waive financial covenants through at least the end of the third quarter of 2022.

Volume 2, Issue 5

  • (Janes Defence News, Coulsdon, 18 May 2021) The government of Japan is reportedly looking into the possibility of supporting defence exports through the provision of low-interest loans. The plan would involve the state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) providing credit to potential customers. Government sources cited by Japanese media said the loans would enable developing countries with a shortfall in funding to procure defence equipment from Japan. The government’s official export credit agency, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI), would support the loans.