Swedish banks increase support for oil companies in the Arctic

03 October 2022

43 billion in two years. That's how much money big Swedish banks have pumped into companies exploring for more oil and gas in the Arctic, despite the fact that the pursuit for more fossil fuels is against the Paris Agreement. This is revealed in a new report by Fair Finance Sweden, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and Greenpeace Sweden.

Three major banks in Sweden – SEB, Nordea and Swedbank – continue to finance companies that search for more oil and gas in the Norwegian part of the Arctic. In total, the banks have supported the oil companies with SEK 43 billion in new loans and financing in the last two years, which is an increase by 36 percent.

"It is shocking that the banks continue to support this incredibly climate-damaging business. I think many Swedish bank clients will be very disappointed, not least because it is done with the help of their money in the bank", says Jakob König, Project Manager at the Fair Finance initiative in Sweden.

"Norway's Little Rain Forest"

The largest financial support from the banks has gone to the oil companies Aker BP, Lundin Energy and Equinor. The three companies are exploring for new deposits in the Wisting field, which could become the world's most northern oil field. The field is close to the ice edge zone, which is called "Norway's little rain forest" because of its unique biological diversity. It is also close to the Bear Island nature reserve where some of the world's largest bird colonies are found. An oil spill could have devastating consequences for the unique environment and wildlife in the area.

The hunt for more fossil reserves also drives climate change. The Arctic is particularly vulnerable to this, as global warming is accelerating at the poles.

"As the ice melts, the climate crisis worsens, and rising sea levels affect island nations and coastal cities all over the world. Therefore, it is particularly problematic to explore for more oil in the Arctic. The banks are putting the planet's boundaries and our common future at risk. They must take responsibility", says Karin Lexén, Secretary General at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

Loopholes in the banks' climate policies

The banks' loans to the oil companies have continued in the last years because of loopholes in their guidelines. None of the three banks say a complete “no” to supporting companies exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic, despite the fact that it goes against the Paris Agreement, which the banks have promised to follow. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has concluded that all new extraction of oil, gas and coal must stop in order to limit global warming in accordance with the Paris Agreement's 1,5 degree target.

"These fossil fuel companies are moving in the wrong direction. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change and protect the Arctic's unique environment, all new oil must stay in the ground. Banks have both a responsibility and an opportunity to contribute to this", says Rolf Lindahl, campaign leader in finance-related issues at Greenpeace Sweden.

Bank clients are upset

Since the last report in 2020, thousands of Swedish bank clients have protested against the banks' business in the Arctic. Following that, all major banks in Sweden have tightened their guidelines. Handelsbanken has taken the biggest step by imposing a complete ban against extraction in the Arctic.

"We urge more Swedish bank clients to protest. On the Fair Finance website, you can easily send a complaint to your bank", says Jakob König.

Read the full report

Send a complaint to your bank with a few clicks

For interviews:

  • Jakob König, Project Manager for Fair Finance Guide at Sveriges Konsumenter, jakob.konig@sverigeskonsumenter.se, +46 73–037 92 93.
  • Karin Lexén, Secretary General, Naturskyddsföreningen, press@naturskyddsforeningen.se, 072-250 63 38. 
  • Rolf Lindahl, Campaign Manager, Greenpeace Sweden, rolf.lindahl@greenpeace.org, 070-397 58 70.