BankTrack contact person for this campaign:
Yann Louvel, Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator, BankTrack
Share this page:
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 transportation.
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 rapidly closing.
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, they must:
- End support for all new coal extraction and delivery;
- 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 briefly below.
BankTrack coal campaigns
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:
- Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining in the United States
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 international partners:
Coal power plant and coal infrastructure projects around the world that BankTrack is collaborating on with local and international partners:
- Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Plant (UMPP)- India
- Rampal Coal Based Thermal Power Plant- Bangladesh
- Batang Coal Power Plant- Indonesia
- Plomin C Coal Power Plant- Croatia
- Great Barrier Reef Coal & Gas Exports- Australia
Banks: Quit Coal!
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 $500 billion.
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.