Rabobank excludes direct funding of natural gas exploitation beneath Wadden Sea

Several mining companies have applied for a permit to extract natural gas below the Wadden Sea both on and off shore, despite the sea having been designated a UNECSO World Heritage Site in 2009. In response to a request by the Wadden Society (Waddenvereniging) to investors not to facilitate these efforts, Rabobank has decided not to fund the exploitation of natural gas below the Wadden Sea directly.

Residents of the Wadden Islands had expressed concern after four companies applied for permits from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs in 2016 for gas drilling below the Wadden Sea. This drilling could cause subsidence of the sea bed in an area already affected by rising sea levels as a result of climate change. The Wadden Sea Society, dedicated to the preservation of the nature reserve, and local residents are anxious about the potential impact on the protected area, such as a decline in the environmental value of the area as a result of the deepening of the sea surface of the Wadden Sea. Rabobank adopts a precautionary approach to activities undertaken in vulnerable nature reserves and has therefore decided to exclude natural gas exploitation below the Wadden Sea from funding. This precautionary approach entails that the bank only provides loans towards initiatives in vulnerable areas if it has been demonstrated that the natural resources in these areas will not be undermined.

Arjan Berkhuysen, director of the Wadden Society: ‘We are pleased with this unequivocal decision by Rabobank: they have honoured our request to stop investing in companies involved in natural gas drilling in the Wadden area. In making this decision, Rabobank has also demonstrated that it takes the issue of sustainability and its presence in the Wadden region seriously. We hope that other banks and pension funds will follow suit. This decision has inspired us, in any case, to work with residents of the Wadden Area in making both politicians and investors aware that they too have a unique opportunity to preserve this unique conservation area.’

Rabobank Director of Sustainability Bas Rüter, commenting on the decision: ‘This decision is in line with recent refinements we have made to our climate policy. Effective today, this more stringent policy also specifically excludes the direct funding of coal mining, coal transport and coal-fired power plants. We have also decided to prioritise the trade in low-carbon fuels over the trade in fossil fuels, which release more carbon dioxins. The trade in these fossil fuels will gradually be reduced. Rabobank is actively looking for customers to work with us on accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy supply.’

Rabobank invests worldwide, together with her customers, in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as well as in large-scale wind and solar energy generation. In the Netherlands is investment in energy-efficient homes and office buildings. Rüter continued: ‘These initiatives are just a few examples of Rabobank’s continued efforts to contribute to achieving the climate targets set under the Paris Agreement. We are pleased to say these efforts have not gone unnoticed: Rabobank was ranked first in a listing of 100 banks in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index 2017 in terms of its climate footprint. That excellent result certainly provides an incentive for us to achieve our climate and sustainability goals.’

Other recent Rabobank initiatives:

  • Participant in the Transition Coalition during the Dutch Climate Summit, which called on the Dutch government to take some of the following initiatives:
    - Creating a climate act designed to achieve the targets under the Paris Climate Agreement by 2050, with concrete intermediate goals to be set in 2030 and 2040
    - Appointing a Minister for Economy, Climate and Energy, who would be responsible for coordinating policies
    - Designating an independent climate authority to create unity among the various parties and remind them of the importance of efficient and consistent implementation, as well as ensuring that the commitments made are honoured, irrespective of the government in power at that particular time
  • Rabobank joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development on 1st January 2017, where it has been actively working on accelerating the funding of climate-smart agriculture (CSA).
  • Active contribution to the Kies voor Klimaat (“Choose Climate”) publicity campaign launched on Tuesday 24th January.

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Nanne van Nunen

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nanne.van.nunen@rabobank.nl

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