Banks must stop funding old polluting ways

A network of renewable energy advocates on Wednesday issued a warning against a return to the “traditional polluting ways” when the Enhanced Community Quarantine is lifted, and asked banks to lead the transition to cleaner practices and resources by pulling the plug on their funding for coal power plant projects. 

Withdraw from Coal, which includes bishops, civil society organizations such as the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, think tanks such as the Center for Ecology, Energy, and Development (CEED), and Catholic lay groups such as the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) and Living Laudato Si’ Philippines (LLS), issued the call in time for the upcoming Earth Day and the Annual Stockholders Meeting of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), which will be held online on Friday.

“Let’s make Earth Day the most meaningful in Philippine history by securing the commitment of all Philippine banks to stop funding coal projects which pollute the air, harm our health, and produce expensive electricity. We can make the clean air which we saw during the quarantine permanent by changing the way we do business, and the private sector, specifically the banks, can lead the way by withdrawing from dirty coal energy,” said Bishop Gerry Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos.

The Bank of the Philippine Islands, one of the biggest financiers of coal in the country and where the Catholic Church has significant investments, was singled out for its previous statements which promised a divestment strategy.

“BPI on Friday has a golden opportunity to be the first Philippine bank to meaningfully show solidarity with the call of Pope Francis to end the mistreatment of our planet and end coal funding once and for all through a resolution of its shareholders. It is my hope that BPI will seize the chance and do its part for the planet,” said Alminaza.

The group also called on the government to do its part by adhering to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte during his 2019 State of the Nation Address and accelerating the development of renewable energy (RE) in the country.

“The President already gave a very clear directive to the Department of Energy. If government policies are shifted towards RE, it will also be easier for banks to see that it is better to use their funds to finance healthier and more sustainable alternatives to coal to provide electricity for the country,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED.

According to the group, the coronavirus pandemic reminds us of the dire consequences of failing to make healthy decisions for the people and the planet.

“Now more than ever, we should focus on breaking away from technologies of the past that pollute the environment and compromise people’s health. BPI and other Philippine banks are in an ideal position to start this by divesting from coal and wisely choosing to instead  invest their assets in renewables,” said LLS Executive Director Rodne Galicha.