The nation’s top six financiers of the coal industry received letters from Rainforest Action Network (RAN) urging that they transition their energy portfolios away from coal and toward renewable energy. The banks, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, PNC and Morgan Stanley, each provide millions of dollars of financing annually for coal mining companies and utility companies that operate coal-fired power plants. RAN has made clear in its letter that if banks do not transition their financing away from dirty energy, the organization is prepared to launch a long-term public pressure campaign.
Banks play a major role in shaping the uncertain future of the coal industry. With shrinking markets in the U.S. and increasing regulatory pressure, coal companies are turning their sights on retrofitting the existing coal-fired power fleet and building coal export terminals on the West Coast to reach Asian markets. The industry is looking to banks to help underwrite these costly transitions.
“Providing underwriting for coal companies is risky business from a regulatory, financial and reputational perspective,” said Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network. “Coal is a dirty, dangerous and increasingly outdated energy source. The lead financiers of the coal industry need to redirect their portfolios not just because coal is bad for health, but because it is bad for business.”
Coal’s uncertain future has been editorialized in the press and reflected in ratings reports such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s. In January, Kevin Parker, Global Head of Deutsche Bank’s Asset Management division (DeAM) and a member of Deutsche Bank’s Group Executive Committee stated, “Coal is a dead man walkin’.”
In the past few years, the banking sector has acknowledged the risks associated with the financing of carbon-intensive power generation. Six banks (Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley) are signatories of the Carbon Principles, one of the first industry-wide statements from the banking sector specifically addressing climate change and carbon-intensive investments. The European banking sector is beginning to adopt bank-specific policies to address financing of new and existing coal-fired power generation; the strongest policies to date include those of WestLB and HSBC.
Rainforest Action Network’s letter urges banks to take their energy and climate commitments further by adopting firm coal policies to include the following criteria:
- No financing for companies pursuing new coal-fired power plants and life-extending retrofits of existing coal-fired power plants.
- No financing for companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.
- No financing for companies pursuing coal export infrastructure.
- Shift the balance of your energy financing to support power generation that is less threatening to our health and environment.
“Today we are challenging the top financiers of coal to take a leadership role in protecting public health, our climate and our economy by transitioning investments away from dirty energy,” continued Starbuck.
RAN has a long history working with and pressuring banks to redirect their investments on everything from logging to coal mining. Last year, RAN moved eight of the world’s largest banks to adopt policies limiting investments in mountaintop removal coal mining.
Coal is responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and the U.S. is the world’s second largest coal producer. Coal-fired energy generation is responsible for pollutants that damage cardiovascular and respiratory health and threaten healthy child development.
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