WHAT'S THE STORY?

MULTINATIONAL bank BNP Paribas is to cut ties with companies working with shale gas and tar sands as it moves towards supporting the renewables sector.

Announcing the move yesterday, the French-based lender said it will "no longer do business with companies whose principal business activity is the exploration, production, distribution, marketing or trading" of commodities sourced from either controversial activity.

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Chief executive Jean-Laurent Bonnafe said: "We're a long-standing partner to the energy sector and we're determined to support the transition to a more sustainable world."

WAIT, A BANK IS PUTTING PLANET BEFORE PROFIT?

Apparently so – as well as the 'no shale, no tar sands' rule, BNP Paribas will also refuse to finance any oil or gas exploration or production in the delicate Arctic region.

As well as this, it will "actively support" energy sector players who are committed to transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

The changes come after the group decided to slash its financing of coal mines and coal-fired power generation and plough billions of euros into eco-power projects.

TELL ME MORE

Let's do it in the bank's words.

According to Parisian institution, the move is its way of helping to limit global warming to less than 2C by the end of the century. Scientists say anything more would be catastrophic.

The bank said: "To achieve this goal, the world must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, starting with oil and gas from shale and oil from tar sands, whose extraction and production emits high levels of greenhouse gases and has harmful effects on the environment.

"Accordingly, BNP Paribas is today announcing a new global financing policy with regard to the exploration, production and transport of non-conventional hydrocarbons.

"BNP Paribas will no longer do business with companies focused on oil and gas from shale and oil from tar sands operations."

Clients whose primary business is the distribution, marketing or trading on commodities generated through these methods are also out.

WHAT ARE TAR SANDS AGAIN?

A mix of sand, water, clay and tar-like bitumen that are processed into oil using processes that are energy intensive and harmful to the environment.

In Canada, which has massive deposits of tar sands, rivers have been polluted with toxic wastewater and farmland destroyed in pursuit of the fuel source.

With much of the activity in areas home to First Nations communities, they are disproportionately affected and claim chemicals released in processing are responsible for high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases, with abnormalities also found in animal life.

AND SHALE GAS?

That's easy – the result of fracking, something Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse told Holyrood "cannot and will not take place" here after announcing an indefinite extension of the two-year-old moratorium on the practice last week.

WHAT ABOUT THE SUPPORT FOR RENEWABLES?

The lender has committed to increase its total financing for renewable energy to €15 billion within three years and to set aside another €100 million for investment in start-ups working on "innovative solutions" for energy transition.

Terminals that liquefy and export gas from shale will no longer be financed, nor will pipelines that carry oil and gas from shale and tar sands sites.

Bonnafe said: "As an international bank, our role is to help drive the energy transition and contribute to the decarbonisation of the economy. We're committed to working with and supporting those energy sector partners who have decided to make environmental issues a central part of their business."