Banks urged to halt coal finance before Paris summit

Campaign rounds on institutions to desert dirtiest fuel in symbolic gesture before crunch UN climate talks

Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel (Pic: Takver/Flickr)

Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel (Pic: Takver/Flickr)

By Alex Pashley

A coalition of NGOs told banks to quit financing the coal industry on Thursday ahead of a summit tasked with securing a global warming pact.

The Paris Pledge campaign is calling on lenders to draw up plans to phase out cash for mines and power plants within six months of the December conference, organisers BankTrack said.

The muscle that drove the Industrial Revolution, coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel and the single biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

US$500 million of finance has flowed from 93 international banks to the sector since 2005, according to BankTrack research.

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Scientists estimate more than 80% of coal stocks must stay unburned to limit global warming to 2C – the international goal.

“To stay within the 2 degrees temperature threshold, the use of coal must come to an end,” director Johan Frijns at the Netherlands-based pressure group said in a statement.

“However, bank finance is continuing to provide the coal industry with last-gasp life support.”



The UN’s annual round of climate talks is expected to produce a universal climate agreement, but observers say it will fall short of the 2C goal.

As the planet warms, new coal plants are its most “urgent threat”, Angel Gurria, the head of the OECD, a rich club of 24 nations said on Friday.

Emerging economies are looking to the black rocks to bring cheap electricity to people and factories.

Report: BP warns coal’s death is premature, predicts growth till 2035

Since 2000, global coal production has grown by almost 70% to 7.9 billion tons a year. BP sees its usage growing 0.8% a year at least until 2035; while the International Energy Administration says coal use should peak by 2020.

Campaigners in the coalition, which includes Greenpeace International and the Sierra Club, drew attention to commitments made by Bank of America and Credit Agricole to pull out of the coal mining sector.

Not enough

Several have vowed to stop mountaintop removal mining, while big US lenders like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have refused to bankroll Australia’s plans to build a coal port near the UNESCO-protected Great Barrier Reef.

“This is all very encouraging but not enough,” Frijns added. “It’s perfect timing ahead of the Paris climate summit to ramp up public pressure and get banks to pledge to quit financing coal altogether.”

Catalina von Hildebrand, a coordinator at the campaign, said banks’ signing of the pledge will show their recognition of the necessary action to confront climate change.

“They will be taking concrete steps to support a strong deal for the climate in Paris and minimize opportunities for greenwashing,” she added.

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