Revelations Japan is using climate funds to invest in coal put UN’s flagship fund under pressure to agree fossil fuel ban
By Ed King
The UN’s flagship climate fund has received fresh calls to exclude all fossil fuels from potential investments it could make in the future.
The moves came after an investigation by the AP news agency revealed Japan is giving funds earmarked for climate friendly projects to coal plants in India and Bangladesh.
That is on top of US$1 billion of loans Tokyo gave to Indonesia for cleaner coal power stations, also classed as “climate finance”.
Board members are understood to have discussed a possible exclusion of fossil fuels during talks at the Green Climate Fund’s headquarters in Songdo this week, but no decision was reached.
Bangladeshi scientist and veteran UN climate talks observer Saleemul Huq told RTCC there was “no way” funding for coal could count as a climate friendly investment.
“Fossil fuels have to be kept in the ground starting with coal. There can be no amount of glossing over coal investment,” he said.
Japan’s decision to claim coal funding was climate related made a “farce” out of the concept of climate finance, ActionAid’s Brandon Wu told AP.
Last year GCF chief Hela Cheikhrouhou told RTCC she was confident the current safeguards the fund was operating under would ensure it did not back projects that would exacerbate climate impacts.
But that left many green and development NGOs unimpressed, who wrote to the UN demanding it clarified what types of funding would be permissible by the GCF.
“We note with grave concern and alarm how other international financial institutions include these types of projects in their climate and energy financing, under the logic of ‘lower carbon’ energy and switching to ‘lower emissions’ fuels,” they said.
Japanese officials told AP coal power was essential for developing countries to ensure they achieved economic growth and access to electricity.
“Japan is of the view that the promotion of high-efficiency coal-fired power plants is one of the realistic, pragmatic and effective approaches to cope with the issue of climate change,” Takako Ito, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying.
Japan’s stance is at odds with leading UN, UK and EU officials, who have all called for investments in all forms of coal to be scaled back.
Burning coal generates around 40% of the world’s electricity needs, and is the largest single source of climate warming gases blamed for climate change.
The latest round of talks on the future of the Green Climate Fund conclude on Thursday, when the board is set to reveal which financial institutions it will channel its money through.