Climate action group, Friends of the Earth, is targeting ING Group over fossil fuel funding. They announced legal action plans on Friday against this leading Dutch bank. The issue? ING’s climate policies and ongoing support for the fossil fuel industry. This marks the start of a potential lawsuit in Dutch courts.

The environmental group, during a press conference in Amsterdam, expressed its commitment to hold ING accountable for its significant role in climate change through its financial support of the fossil fuel sector. This statement immediately impacted ING’s stock market performance, with shares dropping over 1% following the announcement and settling at a 0.3% decrease, priced at 12.74 euros as of 1535 GMT.

Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth, pointedly labeled ING as “the banker of the climate crisis,” emphasizing the bank’s considerable influence and its responsibility in funding entities contributing to environmental degradation. “Because they fund polluters, they play a crucial role in climate change,” Pols stated.

Responding to these allegations, ING acknowledged the group’s claim, asserting confidence in its ongoing efforts to combat climate change. The bank emphasized that sustainability is a fundamental aspect of its strategic direction.

“We’re in regular dialogue with a variety of stakeholders including Friends of the Earth Netherlands. We are confident that we take impactful action to fight climate change and sustainability is part of our overall strategic direction. We will of course respond in court if necessary.” ING said in a statement.

In December 2023, ING announced its plan to gradually cease financing oil and gas development projects by 2040. This decision, however, was met with criticism from various climate groups, who argued that the timeline demonstrated a lack of ambition in addressing urgent climate concerns.

Legally, Friends of the Earth has initiated the process by formally presenting ING’s board of directors with a detailed claim and demands. This step is a prerequisite in Dutch law before proceeding with a civil lawsuit. The environmental group has a history of legal victories, notably their landmark win against Shell in 2021, which resulted in a court-mandated reduction in emissions.

The claim by Friends of the Earth also includes a demand for ING to halve its own emissions by 2030 from 2019 levels and to terminate its cooperation with companies that significantly contribute to pollution.

In its defense, ING highlighted its ongoing dialogues with various stakeholders, including Friends of the Earth Netherlands. The bank reiterated its commitment to the transition towards a low-carbon economy, acknowledging that about 80% of the world’s energy consumption still relies on fossil fuel funding. ING aims to balance its portfolio, reflecting both the global economy and the shift to sustainable activities.

Image Source: Global Trade Review