Climate activist groups took legal action against BNP Paribas, one of Europe’s biggest banks, on Thursday, alleging the French lender’s loans to big oil and gas companies breach a legally binding duty to ensure its activities do not harm the environment. Climate campaigners are increasingly using lawsuits to force a greater effort by big companies to shift to a low-carbon economy. In 2021, in a lawsuit filed by climate activists, Shell was ordered by a Dutch court to extend its planned greenhouse gas emission cuts. French companies have become a particular focus because of a law that requires them to draft so-called environmental damage vigilance plans. A ruling against TotalEnergies\n \n (TTFNF), a client of BNP Paribas, in a case brought by environmental groups, is expected Tuesday. In France, no court has yet forced a company to change its ways on the basis of the 2017 law. The three groups — Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and Notre Affaire à Tous — said the lawsuit against BNP Paribas\n \n (BNPQF) is aimed at making the bank stop the financing of fossil fuels, in what they said was a world first against a commercial bank. Alexandre Poidatz, advocacy officer at Oxfam France, said the bank “continues to write new blank checks to the largest fossil fuel companies without setting any conditions for an oil-free, gas-free ecological transition.” BNP Paribas, the largest bank in the area that uses the euro currency, said in a statement to Reuters that it regretted the advocacy groups’ choice of litigation over dialog and that it could not stop all fossil fuel financing right away. “We’re convinced that the ecological transition is the only viable path for the future of our economies,” the bank said. “We are focused on our fossil fuel exit path, accelerating financing for renewable energies and supporting our customers, without whom the transition cannot be made.” Fossil fuels The three NGOs said their legal approach against BNP Paribas was modeled on the case in the Netherlands in which Shell was ordered to deepen planned cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions. Shell filed an appeal against the ruling last year. Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and Notre Affaire à Tous said BNP Paribas was funding eight European and North American oil and gas companies, which are involved in more than 200 new fossil fuel projects around the world. The three groups cited the latest edition of the “Banking on Climate Chaos” report from RainforestAction Network, which said BNP Paribas ranks eighth among the international banks that have contributed the most to oil and gas production, with $142 billion worth of financing in fossil fuels between 2016 and 2021. The bank said last month that its outstanding loans for fossil fuels amounted to 23.7 billion euros ($25.2 billion) at the end of September 2022. BNP Paribas also said it had stopped oil project financing in 2016. “A commitment has been made to reduce outstanding financing for oil extraction and production by 25% by 2025,” the bank said. In TotalEnergies’ case, next Tuesday’s ruling will focus on a lawsuit by NGOs that alleges the French energy company misled consumers about its efforts to fight climate change. The legal claim concerns the company’s “reinvention” marketing campaign. Claimants say the campaign broke European consumer law by suggesting TotalEnergies can reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while still producing more fossil fuels. Other lawsuits have targeted Air France-KLM\n \n (AFLYY) and even the French state.