1 March 2023 – French President Emmanuel Macron’s co-convening of this week’s “One Forest Summit” in Gabon must be a moment for European leaders to finally rein in the banks, based in their own countries, that remain dangerously exposed to deforestation.

Taking place on 1-2 March in Libreville, this summit has the chance to place the financial sector’s complicity in global deforestation on the agenda of the crucial “Summit for a New Global Financial Pact” in France this summer.

Previous research from Global Witness has revealed that BNP Paribas could have made €32.9 million from deals with agribusinesses responsible for deforestation since 2016. Collectively, French banks last year alone provided at least €286 million in forest-risk loans and underwriting services, whilst French asset managers also held €966 million worth of forest-risk bonds and shares - making France the biggest forest-risk investor in the European Union.

Giulia Bondi, Senior EU Forests Campaigner at Global Witness, said:

“This week’s summit cannot be another leafy photo op for world leaders to tell the world how committed they are to combatting deforestation. What’s needed are real and lasting commitments to stop the multimillion-euro investments financial institutions are continuing to make in deforestation. If European leaders like Macron want to be taken seriously on deforestation, they must address the role of financial institutions in their own backyard.

“As data shows, French and other EU-based financial institutions are enabling the decimation of climate critical forests and until they stop pumping money into this destruction any claims around ‘green’ or ‘net-zero’ are laughable.

“Decades of voluntary initiatives from financiers on green projects have not been enough to stop the ongoing rampant deforestation. The European Commission must urgently make good on its promise to propose rules to stop banks from funding deforestation – and the French government must be at the driving seat in this commitment.”

The summit comes just three months after the EU agreed on a landmark regulation to eliminate deforestation-risk products from its supply chains. Despite its ambition, the law lacks rules to ensure EU-based financial institutions stop investing in deforestation - which the Commission has committed to look into no later than two years after the law enters into force.