Time to end the banking
sector's life support for the coal industry
From concerns over air
pollution and acid rain to its destructive impact on the climate, coal has been
recognised as the dirtiest, most dated and most inefficient fossil fuel option.
It is the most emissions intensive fossil fuel and the leading cause of
climate change. Globally, coal-fired power plants are the largest source of
carbon dioxide - greater than tropical deforestation or oil use for
These facts have been well-established
for some time, yet it is only very recently that international private banks,
which have collectively provided the global coal industry with hundreds of
billions of dollars in financial support over decades, have started to publicly
sound alarm bells about both coal's dreadful impacts and its increasing
unsoundness as an investment commodity.
Such alarm bells have not been
heard as yet uniformly across the banking sector, but they are growing -
from the likes of Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Citi in their advice to investors,
and as seen in August 2015 comments from the CEO of KBC, one of Belgium's
biggest banks, stating that he would prefer to no longer invest in coal.
This kind of
recognition of the threat posed by continuing extraction and burning of coal,
albeit very belated, is welcome from the banking sector, but it is scarcely
being matched in tangible deeds and real divesting from coal.
To date, only two major
international banks - Bank of America
and Crédit Agricole - have committed to end their financing
for coal mining, and none of the world's major banking names has yet been
prepared to pull out of financing for coal-fired power plants.
While we have also
seen a number of isolated coal finance breakthroughs in the last few years in
large part due to campaign pressure applied by BankTrack and our allies engaged
in international coal campaigning - most notably a number of big
banks have announced their pull-out from the controversial mountaintop removal
mining sector along with commitments to steer clear of investing in certain
notorious coal development projects - the banking status quo when it
comes to coal largely continues, even as the window for taking action to
drastically reduce carbon emissions and avoid an outright climate emergency is
This status quo is perhaps
best captured by these self-satisfied (and self-serving) words currently on
display on the website of Germany's biggest bank, in answer to the question
"Why does Deutsche Bank support the coal industry?"
"Deutsche Bank supports a well-balanced global
energy system that is forward- looking and that takes account of economic
conditions as well as environmental and health and safety considerations.
At present, it is still not
possible to meet the substantial global energy demand solely through renewable
energy sources. For this reason, we will continue to finance a diversified
range of energy. Given the increasing energy demand, in some regions of the
world coal cannot be avoided."
The lack of ambition is
palpable, and illustrates the challenge we are facing to end banking sector
life support for the coal industry. BankTrack believes, fundamentally, that in
order to avoid the devastating impacts of their investments, private banks must
take steps to disengage from all activities and projects that substantially
contribute to climate change and environmental and community degradation.
In the coal sector, therefore,
End support for all new coal extraction and
End support for
all new coal-fired power plants.
This is the crux
of BankTrack's recently launched Paris Pledge campaign that seeks to bring an
end to the banking sector's coal finance as the eyes of the world focus on the
Paris climate summit at the end of 2015. The Pledge campaign is discussed
In recent years, and in tandem
with our partners, our coal campaigning around the world has focused on the dodgy deals pictured on this world map. The main active ones are the following:
Mountaintop removal (MTR) mining is a form of strip
mining in which coal companies use explosives to blast as much as 800 to 1000
feet off the tops of mountains in order to reach the coal seams that lie
underneath. The resulting millions of tons of waste rock, dirt and vegetation
are then dumped into surrounding valleys, burying miles and miles of streams
under piles of rubble hundreds of feet deep. MTR mining harms not only aquatic
ecosystems and water quality, it also destroys hundreds of acres of healthy
forests and fish and wildlife habitats, including the habitats of threatened
and endangered species, when the tops of mountains are blasted away.
Rather than remove coal from the mountain, MTR removes
the mountain from the coal. And, needless to say, this has also created havoc
and misery for scores of communities across America's Appalachian Mountains.
However, our targeting of major key banks that have
long supported the MTR sector has reaped positive dividends in the last few
years, and there is now undoubted momentum under way whereby we have been
witnessing a string of major US and European banks publicly committing, one
after the other, to pull out of this most controversial and catastrophic form
of coal mining. We will continue to pressure the remaining laggards, such as
Deutsche Bank, to remove themselves fully from MTR sector financing.
Other priority coal mines
projects around the world that BankTrack is collaborating on with local and
Building on the work of our 2011 'Bankrolling Climate
Change' report and the 2013 'Banking on Coal' report, in 2014 we generated the
most extensive data set so far on the links between banks and the coal
industry, housing the information in a dynamic new website called coalbanks.org.
Our latest research, presented in the 'Banking on Coal
2014' report, investigated the financial links between 92 of the largest global
banks and 93 of the largest coal companies, in both mining and power,
unearthing bank lending and underwriting activity between 2005 and April 2014
that - on a conservative estimate - totalled
The website and report highlight the world's top 20
coal banks, and the website also presents the coal Dodgy Deals that BankTrack
and partners are tracking around the world.
In addition, and also part of the Banks: Quit
Coal! campaign is our continued teaming up with partners
Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club in the production of the Annual Coal Finance Report Card.
The findings in the 2015 report card - entitled 'The End of Coal?' - indicate that, despite a dismal long-term
financial outlook for the coal industry, banks have thus far been willing to
prolong the demise of coal in the service of short-term profits - and
at the expense of the global climate.
Paris Pledge campaign
The Paris Pledge campaign, launched in July
2015, calls on all private sector banks to make a public commitment to phase
out their multi-billion dollar financing of both coal power and coal mining,
before the start of the UN climate summit in Paris at the end of 2015.
The campaign is coordinated by BankTrack and has
already secured support from over 100 environmental and campaigning groups
including Avaaz, Friends of the Earth US, Global Justice Now, Global Witness, Greenpeace
International, Market Forces, Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club.
The Paris Pledge website contains the text of the
Paris Pledge text for banks to sign, provides an opportunity for individuals
and organisations to support the campaign and contains further background
information and resources related to coal financing.
For any question or information on the BankTrack Coal campaign, please contact Yann Louvel, BankTrack Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator.
"Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them." James Hansen
BankTrack contact person for this campaign:
Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator, BankTrack
Chatham House, Coal Financing in Europe: The Banker's Dilemma
This report is the result of dialogue with leading private European banking institutions to map the landscape of their current policies on investment in coal-fired power plants (CFPPs). Drawing on this research and discussions from a workshop held at Chatham House in September 2011, this paper highlights key policy questions for banks and other financial institutions.
China's mega coal power bases exacerbate water crisis – in pictures
A new Greenpeace report warns China's plan to rapidly expand large coal mines and power plants in its arid northern and western provinces threatens to drain precious water supply and could trigger a severe water crisis. The photographer Lu Guang has documented the water-intensive coal extraction, forcing deterioration of arid grassland and forcing herders to seek alternative livelihoods
Coal is a disaster for the climate, stop investments in coal fired power plants!
Netwerk Vlaandereren and environmental organisations BBL, WWF Belgium, Greenpeace Belgium, Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels and the workers movement KWB call for a halt to investments in coal plants.
An interactive documentary exploring how UK banks are financing coal mining in Indonesia. You can navigate your own way through a range of material. The documentary includes interview clips: including indigenous people whose homelands have been destroyed by coal mining, people in the mountains of Java running their own renewable energy projects, finance experts and campaigners.
Your postcards have been delivered! – Westpac AGM 2014
Dec 15, 2014 - Westpac CEO, Gail Kelly, graciously accepted the 1,000 postcards that were made her at today's Westpac AGM. But, we'll be sending her more, asking her to make Reef protection her legacy before she retires next year.
French bank urged to stop investing in coal
Jun 21, 2014 - On June 2nd, 2014, in France, activists brought the polluting reality of French bank Société Générale's investments in coal to their doorstep - by dumping 1.8 tonnes of coal outside their headquarters in Bayonne.
COP19: Heffa Schücking
Mar 26, 2014 - Heffa Schücking of Urgewald talks about the role banks play in financing coal production.
Banking while Borneo burns: top five banks fuelling climate change
Oct 02, 2013 - The Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) calling for UK companies to make public the carbon emissions of the fossil fuel extraction they finance, as well as having to report their direct carbon emissions. Under new rules coming into force on October 1 2013, firms must disclose information such as energy use and petrol consumption in their annual reports. But the UK's top five banks helped fossil fuel companies raise GBP170 billion between 2010 and 2012. This must be limited if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Bank of America: stop funding dirty coal
Jun 27, 2012 - Bank of America can't be a green leader as long as it’s underwriting climatechange
The Last Mountain
Apr 18, 2011 - Documentary on Mountaintop Removal.