With nearly half a trillion bonds outstanding the ‘Dirty 30’, draws focus to some of the top companies using the bond market to finance coal, oil and gas expansion.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has signaled a 'code red for humanity'. But climate change is already here. From heatwaves in India, to floods in Australia we are seeing the impacts of inaction. And it is already impacting hardest those with the fewest resources to combat it.
The science is clear: emissions from fossil fuels are the dominant cause of global warming and climate change and to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees fossil fuel expansion cannot continue. But in spite of these warnings, the world's largest fossil fuel companies have not only continued with business as usual, but in many cases are also aggressively expanding their operations and are clearly out of sync with the landmark Paris Agreement.
How the bond market fuels the fire
As bank lending, particularly for coal, has tightened, the bond market has become a safe haven for dirty fossil fuel companies to fund their expansion.
Coal companies with the biggest expansion plans raise 2.5x more capital through bond issuance than through bank loans, and bonds have become the single largest source of financial support for coal in China and India, according to Sunrise Project analysis of the Global Coal Exit List and data from company financial statements.
And despite not facing the same lending pressures as coal, since the Paris climate talks in 2015, $2 trillion oil and gas bonds have been issued. That’s half of the total in circulation. More than $600 billion is set to mature after 2030, according to Greenwatch.
Every time investors buy fossil fuel debt they are helping a new coal plant, a new oil and gas pipeline come on line. It's the fuel that drives the expansionary system. It needs to be put out.
This is why the global bonds market needs to become a crucial frontier for the climate movement.
As a first step towards this, the initiative has revealed our list of 30 of the top corporations using the bond market to obtain cash to expand coal, oil and gas operations - despite repeated warnings from the IPCC, IEA and others that the world must urgently move away from fossil fuels.
The Dirty 30, compiled by the Toxic Bonds initiative, are thirty of the worst fossil fuel expansionists in the world. In some cases their bond market exposure is large (as in Total Energies which has USD/EUR bonds worth nearly $50 billion that are outstanding). In other cases, such as Whitehaven Coal, the company is only set to make their debut bond issuance this year.
In all cases the companies on the Toxic Bonds Dirty 30 list are all planning major expansion and are using the bond market to help finance these plans.
The companies were primarily chosen based on information in the Global Oil and Gas Exit List and Global Coal Exit List The list currently only considers the companies’ USD/EUR denominated bonds.
- China Energy Investment Corp (China Energy/ CHN Energy)
- PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (Persero) (PLN)
- Shandong Energy Group (YanCoal)
- State Power Investment Corp (SPIC)
Our research shows the “Dirty 30” currently have more than $491 billion — nearly half a trillion – in total EU/USD bonds that are outstanding. Non-USD or Euro denominated bonds are not currently tracked by the Toxic Bonds initiative, meaning the total amount is likely to be much higher.\
Among the Dirty 30, Adani, Exxon, TotalEnergies and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) are noteworthy given their large expansion plans and/or reputational risks.
Adani has over $8 billion USD/EUR bonds outstanding, and is building the largest coal mine in Australia's history. The Adani Group’s history shows that it operates as a single entity shifting money within the group as needed, and as such, any financing or investment in any Adani Group company frees up capital that could be used to fund the Carmichael mine and its associated infrastructure.
- ExxonMobil has over $41 billion in USD/EUR bonds outstanding. ExxonMobil’s short term upstream expansion plans amount to 7 billion barrels of oil equivalent (bboe), making it one of the biggest developers of new oil and gas in the world. ExxonMobil is also one of the top ten companies with the highest annual capital expenditures on oil and gas exploration. The company’s projections used for its business planning show a 2050 future where fossil fuels still provide over 70% of primary energy, reflecting that Exxon’s core business model is still highly reliant on the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.
- TotalEnergies has USD/EUR bonds worth nearly $50 billion that are outstanding. Buying TotalEnergies’ new bonds was recently denounced, as the French oil and gas major’s current climate strategy does not prevent it from implementing fossil fuel expansion plans: More than 70% of TotalEnergies’ capital expenditures will be dedicated to fossil fuels, including €2.6 to €3.2 billion per year for new projects.
- The Korea Electric Power Corporation, also known as KEPCO, has $2.3 billion USD/EUR bonds outstanding according to the toxic bonds list. KEPCO is reported to have already issued $8 billion USD worth of corporate bonds in Q1 2022; a figure that includes both domestic and international bonds. This colossal amount is close to the company’s total bond issuance in 2021 and three times the $2.5 billion issued in 2020. If KEPCO’s bond issuance trend continues, the amount the company raises via the bond market is expected to reach $32.8 billion this year. KEPCO is still developing new coal-fired power plants in South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia. Although the company announced a coal-power phase out by 2050, global coal phase-out should take place by 2040 .
Every time investors buy new debt from the Dirty 30 they are helping to drill new oil wells or open new coal mines. We can no longer afford to dismiss the bond market when taking on fossil fuel expansion.
- GreenWatch Team: Andreas Hoepner, Matthew McQuade and Fabiola Schneider. Data collected 23 February - 23 March 2022 https://www.greenwatch.ai/