France climate change protests


France emerges as the leading supporter of “carbon bomb” extraction projects in Europe, according to a recent investigation.

These projects, accounting for the 425 largest fossil fuel extraction initiatives globally, have the potential to release over a gigaton of CO2 each.

Since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, French banks have financed these ventures with a staggering $154 billion. The carbon bombs beneath these projects contain enough coal, oil, and gas to exceed humanity’s carbon budget for staying within the 1.5°C temperature increase limit fourfold.

“Fossil fuel companies and banks have implemented a cynical strategy,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a climate scientist at CEA Paris-Saclay who co-chaired the physical science section of the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Despite an aim to become carbon neutral by 2050, she said, they were “acting now to increase the use of fossil fuels and thus emissions – deliberately ignoring one of the strongest scientific findings relating cumulative CO2 emissions with global warming levels”.

Research conducted by French NGOs Data for Good and Éclaircies, along with collaboration from media outlets including The Guardian and Le Monde, revealed that French banks outstripped their European counterparts in financing companies associated with these carbon bomb projects.

The four major French banks – BNP Paribas, BPCE Group, Crédit Agricole, and Société Générale – collectively invested $17.8 billion in 2022 alone in companies operating or planning these projects.

The database of carbon bomb projects originated from a research paper identifying 425 coal mines, oil fields, and gas fields with potential lifetime emissions surpassing 1 gigaton of CO2. French researchers cross-referenced this information with data on operators from Global Energy Monitor and financiers from Banking on Climate Chaos.

Lou Welgryn, the co-president of Data for Good, which led the research, said: “There is very little public and reliable data available to identify fossil projects worldwide, their total reserves, associated greenhouse gas emissions, and the actors involved.

“This opacity, in some cases, leads us to underestimate the number of projects associated with a company or the financial flows between a bank and companies operating carbon bombs.”

Notably, the French energy company TotalEnergies is involved in approximately two dozen of these carbon bomb projects globally, according to the research.

Greenpeace, using a less conservative methodology focusing on upstream emissions, identified 33 carbon bombs involving TotalEnergies. The report also highlighted the company’s role in acquiring new exploration licenses for 84 projects since 2015, including 11 after 2021, when the International Energy Agency warned against new oil and gas exploration.

TotalEnergies defended itself by stating that it aims to increase its renewable capacity fivefold by 2030, investing nearly €5 billion in renewable and low-carbon energies in 2023.

“But it is by developing new oil and gas projects that the fossil fuel industry artificially creates this demand – so they can reap outrageous profits and lock us into decades more of dependence on fossil fuels.”

A spokesperson for TotalEnergies said: “The IEA forecasts growth in oil and gas production between now and 2028. In this context, we continue to invest in new oil projects to meet the still growing global demand, particularly in developing countries. And, in anticipation of the natural decline of our current fields (4% per year), to continue to guarantee our customers access to energy available at an affordable cost.”

The spokesperson also pointed to TotalEnergies’ plans to increase its renewable capacity fivefold by 2030, adding that the company would invest nearly €5bn in renewable and low-carbon energies in 2023.

“TotalEnergies is therefore implementing its ambition in a concrete way while continuing to meet the energy needs of growing global populations,” the spokesperson added.

However, campaigners argue that banks, including those in France, could contribute to defusing carbon bombs by refusing to finance the operators of these projects.

BNP Paribas updated its policies in 2022 and committed to no longer financing new oilfields and gas fields, striving to shift 80% of its energy-based financing to low-carbon sources by 2030.

Crédit Agricole disputed figures in the report, mentioning double counting, and emphasised a commitment to reduce credit exposure to upstream oil by 25% from 2020 to 2025.

A spokesperson said: “We have made a commitment to no longer finance any new coalmining projects or companies developing such projects. We have also made a commitment not to finance any new oil exploration-production projects.”

BPCE Group affirmed its support for customers in energy transition, with a spokesperson stating: “This partnership approach is essential and is more beneficial than an abrupt halt to the financing provided to customers. BPCE Group is convinced that these players, because of their technical and financial capacities, have the necessary levers to accelerate the energy transition by developing renewable and low-carbon energies.”

Société Générale outlined ambitious targets to reduce exposure to oil and gas production by 80% by 2030 and cease support for new oilfields and gas fields from 2024.

Critics argue that despite the financial capacity of major energy companies to fund their projects, banks should play a role in avoiding further environmental harm by abstaining from financing fossil fuel initiatives.

“Just by virtue of their scale, the biggest banks in the world can offer better interest rates,” said Joe Thwaites, a sustainable finance campaigner at Natural Resources Defense Council. “If you have major financiers refusing to finance fossil fuels, it’s not to say that the extraction companies won’t be able to find other sources, but they may have to pay a premium. It’s the equivalent of if you’re unable to go to a high street bank and you’re forced to go to a loan shark.”

The commonly cited justification that if one bank doesn’t finance such projects, another will is criticised as akin to a “drug dealer’s defence.”



At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The decline in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their decline towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect on the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

Donate today at and join in the solution!


Leave A Comment