Potential climate case

... min read

Milieudefensie, or Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said in January 2024 that ING isn’t living up to our responsibilities when it comes to climate change and that they may initiate legal proceedings against us if we do not comply with their request. We’ve now responded to them, outlining why we’re confident in our climate approach and our position on the points they raised in their letter. Here’s some more information.


What do they want, and what’s our reaction?

We actually agree with Milieudefensie on most things. We’re as concerned as they are about the climate and agree that urgent action is needed to make sure we limit global warming to 1.5 degrees as laid out in the Paris Agreement. We also agree that everyone needs to do their part to make the transition towards a low-carbon economy happen, and that as a bank we have a role to play. So, we have the same goal, we
take a different view how to best get there.

We value open discussions with all kinds of stakeholders, and have previously had good and constructive dialogues with Milieudefensie that have taught us things and inspired us. We would like to continue that dialogue. We’re confident in our climate action approach and if necessary, we will also explain it in court.

One: Friends of the Earth believes that our climate policy should be in line with the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement. We haven’t only committed ourselves to these goals, but we’re also putting them into action. In fact, we were one of the first banks to commit to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

We aim to cut emissions from our buildings & data centres by 70% by 2030 from 2019. That’s far more than what they’re demanding, and we’re well on track.

But the biggest impact is through the clients we finance. We use our Terra approach, which is based on science, to bring the most carbon-heavy parts of our loan book in line with the Paris goals. And we’ll regularly adapt our approach so that we’re always using the latest scientific insights.

We’re also part of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, organised by the United Nations. That includes a pledge to align lending and investment portfolios with pathways to net zero by 2050 or sooner.

Two: Friends of the Earth believes that we should reduce our total CO2 emissions by an absolute percentage of 48%, which is how much the world as a whole needs to reduce in order to meet the Paris Agreement.

We take a science-based, sector-by-sector approach. When financing oil and gas exploration and production, we aim to reduce our lending and thus the emissions we finance from oil and gas production by 50% CO2e in 2030 compared to 2019 in an absolute sense. However, for most sectors, we focus on reducing the emission intensity of the actual activity we finance, like grams of CO2 per kilometre driven for the production of cars. We consider this an accurate and impactful approach, which is in line with Paris Agreement.

And three: Friends of the Earth believes that we should get good climate plans from all of our large corporate clients and cease to finance companies that fail to deliver within a year.

We agree that it’s important to know what our clients are doing. So we’ve already collected climate data on our largest and most relevant clients and have started using that in our decision making.

They also ask that we stop financing companies that are in one way or another involved in the development of new oil & gas fields. We already stopped new dedicated finance to new oil & gas fields back in 2022, based on new information from the International Energy Agency that new fields aren’t needed anymore.

Around 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, for heating, cooking, transportation, electricity. This percentage will only gradually come down as new energy sources become available. That’s why the United Nations calls for ‘just, orderly and equitable’ transition away from fossil fuels, so not overnight.

Why are we confident in our climate approach?

Sustainability is a core element of ING’s strategy and we have led the way with many important steps over the years.

We were one of the first major international banks to commit to the goals of the Paris Agreement, and we co-created a detailed and scientific way to steer financing towards the Paris Agreement’s goal of reaching net zero by 2050. We are doing just that for the most carbon-heavy parts of our portfolio.

We were one of the first major international banks for other milestones, too. We’re reducing financing to coal-fired power plants to close to zero by 2025. In response to publications by the International Energy Agency we decided to no longer provide dedicated finance to new oil & gas fields and to speed up the reduction of our upstream oil & gas financing to zero by 2040. And in response to the call from the international community at COP28 in Dubai to triple renewable energy capacity, we also aim to triple new financing of renewable power generation to €7.5 billion annually by 2025 from 2022.

It's important to note that as society transitions to a low-carbon economy, about 80% of energy used globally today is still fossil-fuel based. So even though we finance a lot of sustainable activities, we still finance more that’s not sustainable. That is a reflection of the current global economy.

What are the next steps?

We’ve responded to Friends of the Earth with the letter. They previously said that they would begin legal proceedings if we didn’t comply with what they ask in their letter. That would kick off a long process that could take years. We don’t know what legal demands they would make, nor can we speculate as to what the results of such a case would be, as there’s no precedent. Regardless, ING will continue to take steps and make progress on our climate approach.

About our climate action approach

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