Summary of the notice of liability

We are holding ING legally liable for contributing to dangerous climate change. Read the summary of our letter to ING below.

"The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived." i These are the words of António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, on 27 July 2023. He is right, the climate crisis is now visible everywhere and the science is clear. Global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. Nevertheless, they keep on increasing. The climate plans of polluting companies are not sufficient to limit the warming of the earth to 1.5°C, as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement. One of those companies is ING and this has to change.

ING itself knows a great deal about climate change and described the consequences in their Climate Report of 2022 as follows: ‘a far-ranging impact on many fundamental human rights, including the right to food, health, water and sanitary provisions.’ii

This is what we are demanding of ING

We are demanding that ING cuts its total emissions in half and stops working with polluting companies that jeopardise our future (like oil and gas companies).iii

In our letter to ING this demand was divided into 3 measures that are intended to prevent ING from contributing to dangerous climate change in the future. We demand that:

  1. ING sees to it that its climate policy is in accordance with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement;
  2. ING reduces its emissions by at least 48% CO2 and at least 43% CO2e in 2030 compared to 2019; 
  3. ING, in addition, ensures that it is not linked to adverse climate impacts of large business clients, such as:
    a. ING demands that all large corporate clients provide a good climate plan;
    b. ING ceases financing and supporting large corporate clients who do not have a good climate plan within one year;
    c. ING demands that fossil fuel clients stop fossil fuel expansion and draw up a good phase-out plan;
    d. ING ceases new financing and support for fossil fuel clients who continue fossil fuel expansion or who do not have a good phase-out plan;
    e. ING ceases all financing and support for fossil fuel clients who after a year continue fossil fuel expansion or who do not have a good phase-out plan; and
  4. ING engages in a conversation with Milieudefensie in order to properly give substance to the above-mentioned measures.

ING’s emissions

ING is responsible for emitting an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. The bank itself reported 61 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions over 2022.iv This is more than, e.g., the emissions of a country like Ghana or Sweden. This makes ING’s emissions the biggest of all financial institutions in the Netherlands. Per euro that ING invests in companies, more greenhouse gases are released (‘emissions intensity’) than with most other financial institutions in the Netherlands. ING thus not only has substantial emissions, it also often opts to finance polluting activities. 

And this is not all. Researchers estimate that ING's financed emissions are 4 to 5 times as large as the emissions currently acknowledged by ING. v A large part of the greenhouse gases emitted by ING’s clients are not reflected in the bank’s reports. ING nevertheless bears some responsibility for these emissions. In addition, ING offers other services besides loans. ING does not report on the emissions associated with these other services.

As ING’s share in the climate crisis is so substantial, a lot may be expected of the bank as well. Not only because of the emissions, but also because ING is a bank with a lot of power and resources (like money and knowledge). This entails that ING has a lot of influence on society and on the companies ING collaborates with. This means it also has a lot of influence on the energy transition and the climate. ING is, moreover, a rich company in a rich country. This too increases responsibility.

ING’s climate targets

ING does have a climate policy and climate targets, but they are far from adequate. The targets set by ING to reduce emissions fall short on two important

  1. ING has no targets whatsoever for a large part of its emissions. ING only sets targets for a part of the sectors to which ING provides loans. There are no targets for the total emissions of the bank. In addition, there are no targets for the emissions that ING does not report on, as described above.
  2. The targets that ING does have are the wrong kind of targets: intensity targets. To stop climate change, emissions need to come down. The problem with intensity targets is that they do not guarantee that ING’s emissions will come down, indeed they could continue increasing. Intensity targets concern the amount of ING’s greenhouse gas emissions per (for example) generated amount of energy (in KW/h). This allows the bank to achieve its climate target simply by such things as financing double the amount of renewable energy, while at the same time continuing to invest the same amounts in polluting companies. In the end, the same amount of greenhouse gases are being emitted into the air. This does not help the climate. 

ING should set targets for an absolute reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions. That is why we are demanding a halving of ING's total greenhouse gas emissions (measure 2). This demand is in line with climate science. 

The companies ING collaborates with

In addition to reducing the bank’s total emissions, we also demand that ING tackles the contribution to dangerous climate change by large corporate clients (polluting companies) (measures 3a-b). To achieve this, ING must demand a good climate plan from all large corporations the bank collaborates with. A plan that is in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

This ensures that the bank exerts influence on the companies with which it collaborates (this is also known as engagement). It is important that ING sets clear boundaries and a deadline for the companies with which it collaborates. If a company does not have a good plan after one year or is not seriously implementing that plan, the collaboration will end and ING will cease doing business with that company (disengagement).

ING claims it is already exerting influence on the companies with which it collaborates. If so, it is not in a manner that makes any true impact. ING does not set any clear requirements for the time period in which a company must become greener. Nor is ING in favour of breaking off ties with companies. This means that companies have no incentive whatsoever to truly change. We demand that ING improves this policy.

ING and the oil and gas industry

We demand a more stringent approach for fossil fuel companies (measures 3 c-e). The science is clear about the future of oil, gas, and coal: we have to say farewell. That is why ING must demand of its fossil fuel clients that they stop expanding oil, gas and coal and draw up a good phase-out plan for all fossil fuel activities. If a fossil fuel company does not do so, ING must break off ties with the company.

At present, ING is still fully collaborating with the fossil fuel industry. Even though ING has announced it will not provide any more project financing for new oil and gas projects, this is a symbolic step. ING is still the biggest financier of fossil fuels in the Netherlands. ING continues to provide general loans to fossil fuel companies. In 2022 it had over 15 billion euros in loans outstanding. The companies can simply use these loans for new oil and gas projects. Since 2015 ING has helped fossil fuel companies acquire more than 82 billion euros in funding through another route (bonds). vii

In December 2023 ING announced it would reduce a part of its financing for upstream fossil fuel companies by 35% in 2030 and completely phase it out in 2040. This too is a drop in the ocean which does not really change ING’s policies. This once again only covers part of the money that ING invests in oil and gas companies. This measure allows ING to continue financing companies that start new oil and gas projects until 2040. In short, this announcement is also insufficient.

It is time for a lawsuit

In the past 18 years we have undertaken many attempts to persuade ING to come up with a better climate policy. We have tried to convince ING to change course by means of studies, talks and demonstrations. In 2022 and 2023, we asked ING for a climate plan. An independent agency (NCI) concluded that ING’s plans are not in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. We warned them then that legal action might follow. We warned them again at the end of 2023. ING’s CEO responded on the radio: ‘We think we are doing a good job’. viii

The legal basis

We are basing our claim on ING's duty of care. The duty of care is based on the legal general societal standard of care (Dutch Civil Code, Art. 6:126(2)). Companies in the Netherlands have the legal responsibility to respect human rights and to comply with the duty of care. Contributing to dangerous climate change is a breach of this duty of care. The successful climate lawsuit that we brought against Shell and the successful lawsuit of Stichting Urgenda against the State of the Netherlands were based on that same duty of care.

In short

We are asking ING to bring its climate policy in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. ING is legally obliged to do so on the basis of its duty of care and it is necessary to prevent the climate crisis from becoming even worse.


i 'The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.' António Guterres, 'Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters' (27 July 2023)

ii ‘Climate change has a profound impact on many fundamental human rights including, but not limited to, the right to food, health, water, and sanitation.’ ING, ‘Climate Report 2022’ (2022), 32. 

iii Notice of liability, Section 2

iv Notice of liability, Section 5

v Notice of liability, Section 7.1

vi Notice of liability, Section 7.2

viii Notice of liability, Section 7.4

 viii BNR Radio, 'ING-ceo over klimaatverandering: Wij denken dat we het goed doen' (30 November 2023),