Clean energy group appeals to financial institutions: end coal’s reign

Photo from The Digital Skyline.

A clean energy group echoed the call for a stop to financial institution’s role in the continued dominance and expansion of coal globally, following the release of new research findings by international divestment groups at COP 25 in Madrid.

The Global Coal Exit List (GCEL) published by Urgewald, Banktrack, and NGO partners revealed that, as Urgewald Director Heffa Schuecking explained, even as “the UN Secretary General, the IPCC and climate scientists worldwide have time and again called for a speedy phase-out of coal-based energy production…most financial institutions are still turning a deaf ear. Over the past 3 years, financial institutions have channeled US$ 745 billion to companies planning new coal power plants.”

Gerry Arances, Executive Director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), lauded the initiative, as the GCEL serves as a valuable resource for communities and organizations across the globe struggling to break free from coal’s hold. He also noted that the list, which is a collection of data on companies and institutions behind coal development, exposes the entities that are eating away at the very survival of many vulnerable peoples.

CEED is among the Filipino collaborating organizations of the GCEL.

“It has already been more than a year since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed through a special report the alarmingly dire situation of our climate, and the urgent need to radically cut down the use of fossil fuels, especially coal. By 2030, energy production from coal must be reduced by 78% for the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement to still be attainable,” said Arances.

“Yet, here we are facing as much as 570 GW additional coal capacity in the pipeline and about 1,000 more coal power plant units lining up to be added to the global coal fleet,” he lamented.

Arances noted that the pending 28% increase in coal’s global installed capacity is only made possible by the helping hand extended by commercial banks and institutional investors to coal developers.

“307 commercial banks and 1,922 investors are fueling the fires of climate change through coal financing. These financial institutions are funding coal’s future while simultaneously destroying our own,” he said.

But the irony of coal expansion in the face of a catastrophic climate emergency further intensifies on a national level. Arances explained, “despite consistently being in the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate-related risks and disasters, the Philippines is now also among the top countries in the world planning to expand energy generation from coal – the ninth out of sixty to be exact.”

“The Philippines today is looking at 12,014 MW of additional coal capacity. This is a 140% increase in our national coal installed capacity of 8,594 MW. It would mean more communities suffering with threats to their health and livelihood, more biodiversity lost, and more expensive electricity for Filipino consumers.”

The GCEL identified 13 local banks to be responsible for lending or underwriting USD 6,303 Million to coal developers from 2017 to the third quarter of 2019. Of these, two banks account for 54.67% – more than half of the total – of financial support to the country’s coal expansion.

“BDO and BPI should be embarrassed for their contribution to the worsening climate impacts that are experienced by the same Filipinos they claim to serve, the same customers who enter the doors of their banks daily to entrust with them their hard earned money,” stressed Arances.

“But the large contribution of these banks and of global financial institutions in the continued dominance of coal also translates to a great potential to end coal’s reign by creating sweeping changes in response to the climate crisis. If these institutions create policies that restrict coal financing and channel funds instead to clean, renewable energy technologies, it would mean billions of funds allotted for climate justice and action. In this sense, the Paris Agreement’s ambitions could be within our reach.”

“We urge BPI and BDO to thoroughly reassess their exposure to coal, and to set an example to other local banks of the role a financial institution can play in responding rather than contributing to rising global temperatures. Already, many international financial institutions are making bold announcements opposing coal funding. We hope that these two banks do find ways to make a clean energy future easy to attain,” Arances concluded.