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Credit Agricole stops loans for new oil fields, plans more emission cuts

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Credit Agricole outside a bank office in Reze

By Olivier Sorgho and Virginia Furness

PARIS (Reuters) - France's biggest retail lender Credit Agricole said on Tuesday it has stopped financing new oil extraction projects and laid out plans to cut emissions tied to loans to five of its high-polluting sectors.

The move comes as the banking sector faces increased regulatory and investor pressure to align lending with the global climate goals, including by setting near-term targets.

So far only a handful of banks including Britain's biggest domestic bank Lloyds and Dutch lender ING Groep NV have globally stopped lending to develop new oil fields.

Credit Agricole also spelled out targets for emission cuts for its oil and gas, power, commercial real estate, automotive and cement sectors.

It said it would reduce its loan exposure to oil exploration and production by a quarter by 2025 instead of a prior target of 20%.

The lender had said in June it would cut emissions from clients in the oil and gas sector by 30% by 2030. The bank said it had 24.7 billion euros ($25.95 billion) of exposure to the sector.

Campaign group Reclaim Finance welcomed the bank's move to end all direct support for new oil fields but called for the inclusion of gas expansion projects as well.

"It still has a lot of work to do, especially on gas, to fully align itself with science," said Lucie Pinson, director of NGO Reclaim Finance in a statement.

In the automotive sector, the lender said it would finance more electric vehicle companies as part of a plan to halve emissions intensity, a measure of emission volume, by 2030.

The bank plans to reduce emissions intensity of its power portfolio by 58% by 2030, partly by ending financing to thermal coal by 2030 in OECD member countries and by 2040 in the rest of the world.

In the commercial real estate sector, it aims to cut annual emissions per square meter by 40% and emissions per tonne of cement produced by 20% by 2030.

The lender said it would set new targets next year for five more sectors - shipping, aviation, steel, residential real estate and agriculture.

(This story has been corrected to fix tense in first paragraph, reference to gas in fifth paragraph, sector description in sixth paragraph, and detail on power sector phase out plan in paragraph 10)

($1 = 0.9518 euros)

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Sudip Kar-Gupta and Olivier Sorgho; Editing by Jason Neely, Milla Nissi and Arun Koyyur)