22 MARCH 2018 – 06:18 AUDREY ELSTER AND DUGAN FRASER [image: Downstream: Banks make big profits by financing mining and other operations that have devastating effects on the environment and on the people who live nearby. Picture: SUPPLIED]
Nothing demonstrates corporate SA’s duplicitous attitude to environmental, social and governance issues quite like the speed with which major banks fall over themselves to ensure they get a slice of whatever project is on the horizon — no matter what’s involved.
No wonder there was scepticism and confusion regarding their decision to terminate dealings with the Gupta family in 2016. Up to that point it seemed there was nothing and nobody who would not get funding from a South African bank.
The lure of fees and the chance to sign off on another major loan facility tend to be the overwhelming consideration for businesses mesmerised by a six-month time horizon. Nothing demonstrates this more forcefully than the manner in which all four of the big banks – Nedbank, Barclays Africa, FirstRand and Standard – have signed up as potential funders of the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power plant.
The Centre for Environmental Rights pointed out last August that is it apparent from the climate impact assessment ordered by the High Court in Pretoria that greenhouse gas emissions from the plant (to be built near Lephalale in Limpopo) are expected to be 60% higher than Eskom’s new Medupi and Kusile coal plants.