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Desjardins lifts ban on pipeline lending

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World Pipelines,

A moratorium on loans for energy pipeline projects has been lifted, Desjardins Group said yesterday, as it vowed to consider environmental, social and governance practices of clients in all future lending decisions.

CEO Guy Cormier said in an interview Wednesday the credit union will continue to live up to its agreements with energy companies after extensive consultations with supporters and opponents of the sector over the past four months.

"It means that the moratorium we put on in July now is replaced by the application of the ESG [environmental, social and governance] criteria, not only for the energy sector but all the different business sectors we invest in," he said./p>

"We want to work with the sector to support the transition to clean energy."/p>

The decision in July to temporarily stop pipeline loans had been applauded by environmental groups and First Nations opposed to oilsands development, who urged the Quebec credit union to make the freeze permanent./p>

They also asked Desjardins to withdraw from pipeline lending commitments such as its CAN $145 million stake in a loan package for Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.'s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to bring more oilsands crude from Alberta to the West Coast./p> Cormier said oil and gas investments represent about CAN$6.6 billion out of a total of CAN$276 billion in Desjardins assets./p>

He said the company will move to a carbon-neutral state by offsetting its own greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of carbon credits starting this year. He vowed to ensure that by 2020 the emissions from companies in its investment portfolio are 25% lower than the average of companies in stock and bond market indexes./p>

Before making an investment, he said Dejardins will assess whether the partner has consulted with affected communities, such as First Nations, and has a plan to manage its carbon footprint./p>

"As a financial co-operative, we can lead by example and encourage the transition to a greener economy," said Cormier. "That's why Desjardins has decided to go carbon neutral, invest in renewable energy products and reduce the carbon footprint of our publicly traded portfolio. And for all of our activities, we will add authorisation criteria to encourage respect for the environment and communities in finance."/p>

Beginning in late 2017, the firm will purchase carbon credits to offset its greenhouse gas emissions. The firm says it will also focus on renewables for the "direct investment of its own assets in energy infrastructure." /p>

Desjardins will also be encouraging its members and clients to invest in funds designed to help reduce greenhouse emissions, such as the Desjardins SocieTerra Cleantech Fund and the Desjardins SocieTerra Environment Fund./p>

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