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Laszlo Sajtos, George Marbuah, Aaron Maltais
Climate policy, Climate targets, Economy, Finance

Financial flows of five leading banks in Sweden since the Paris Agreement

A new report examines domestic and international financial flows of five banks in Sweden.

This study sheds light on the domestic and international financial flows from the largest lenders in Sweden and their alignment with the Paris Agreement. The results show the extent to which banks’ financial flows contribute to achieving climate goals consistent with Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement on climate change, or to delaying that achievement, with some limitations.

The authors mapped domestic and international asset portfolios and capital flows in climate-relevant sectors (e.g. carbon-intensive sectors, renewable energy) between 2010 and 2020, of the five main banks in Sweden: Svenska Handelsbanken, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), Swedbank, Danske Bank and Nordea. They defined economic flows as new investments in the form of corporate loans, issuance underwritings or listed holdings, primarily focusing on the first two.

The researchers categorized recipients of these flows as high-emitting (“brown”) and low-emitting (“green”) services, to the extent our data sources allowed. Based on this classification, we combined the analysis of available balance sheets with tracing new investments provided to these and the “residual” (“grey”) sectors that are uncategorizable. These metrics capture a large share of the financial flows that should be impacted by alignment to Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement, without details on the specific environmental performance of specific firms receiving the new investments.

The analyses indicate a limited alignment with the Paris Agreement’s climate goals. The authors found that financing gradually increased in volume to highly emitting sectors, such as oil and gas exploration and production. The sampled banks have facilitated about USD 150 billion to these sectors since the Paris Agreement took effect in 2016, mainly through syndicated loans (USD 104.4 bn) and bond issuance underwritings (USD 36.3 bn).