Only two of the world's 10 largest banks joined the coalition of 130 global financial firms to agree to align their business with international efforts to address climate change and other environmental issues.
The group that signed the UN & # 39; Principles of responsible banking represent $ 47 trillion in assets. Citigroup and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China joined the pledge, which begins with asking companies to self-assess their sustainability practices. Signatories, including the top European banks BNP Paribas SA, Barclays Plc and UBS Group AG, also agreed to develop and publish sustainability plans and targets by 2023.
There are a wide range of stronger measures that banks can take , for example, ban thermal coal financing or set a timeline to phase out funding for the fossil fuel industry. One of the signatories, ING Groep NV, said last week that it would increase lending to car manufacturers producing more electric vehicles than those producing combustible engines.
The principles follow another set of voluntary standards for the asset management industry ̵
Among the banks that refused to participate, some said they had their own sustainability programs. Others said they were still considering the PRB.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a statement that it has a number of target-related efforts as the PRB is underway, and will continue to work with the UN PRB as the initiative develops further. Wells Fargo & Co. said it succeeded in working towards goals it had set in 2016 to meet social, economic and environmental challenges over a five-year period. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.
& # 39; A signal & # 39;
UN Deputy Secretary-General Satya Tripathi said the reluctance of some banks to commit is a signal the principles have teeth. "Some are not ready to be held responsible for their lending," he said during a panel discussion on September 19.
The PRB was launched at the start of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. Transitioning to low-carbon and climate-adapting economies in line with the Paris Agreement requires additional investments of at least $ 60 trillion from now until 2050, said Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in a statement.  PRB "offers a ladder to climb for each bank, although some banks start very low and have a particularly large ladder to climb," said Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos Bank, a Dutch lender that finances renewable energy and organic agriculture, and who has signed the agreement.
Critics say the principles are not radical enough, and a four-year window to come up with plans to improve sustainability is too little, too late. In a joint statement, the BankTrack and Rainforest Action Network campaigns said that "such time scales may have been sufficient 30 years ago. Now, however, we consider them to be completely inadequate in the era we live in."