BY RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Japan’s three biggest commercial banks are the world’s top financiers of new coal plants, according to research released Thursday in Spain at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Mizuho Financial Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group together accounted for 32 percent of direct lending to coal power plant developers since January 2017, the report by Germany-based nonprofit Urgewald, Dutch bank watchdog BankTrack and 30 other NGOs says. Their research examined loans, underwriting, bonds and shareholdings in companies that were financially invested in the expansion of the coal industry between January 2017 and September 2019.
Mizuho is the biggest lender, having poured $16.8 billion into the industry since the research began. Mitsubishi UFJ is second with $14.6 billion in contributions and Sumitomo Mitsui third with $7.9 billion. Financial institutions have funneled over $745 billion into companies planning new coal plants over the last three years, according to the report, with $159 billion of that coming from 307 commercial banks through direct loans to the developers.
“Japan’s top three banks are undermining the Paris agreement and tarnishing their reputations by being the world’s biggest lenders to coal plant developers,” said Shin Furuno from 350 Japan. “Global banks must align their portfolios with the Paris climate goals by ending finance for the coal sector altogether and actively funding the transition toward a zero carbon future.”
Mizuho and Sumitomo Mitsui declined to comment on the study.
As the effects of climate change intensify, the push to limit the use of fossil fuels has been on the rise around the world.
In July, Mizuho Financial Group announced it would tighten its funding restrictions and focus on power plants with comparatively lower carbon emissions, and increase investment in wind energy and other renewable resources in the near future. NGOs often criticize Mizuho as the biggest financier of new coal projects, but the bank insists projects unrelated to coal power are being taken into account when such claims are being made.
Earlier this year, Mitsubishi Financial Group said it was solidifying a plan to stop investing in new coal projects in order to stave off the growing effects of climate change and align with Japan’s goals to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by the end of the century.
Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund is the second-biggest investor in coal-related firms with more than $17.4 billion in shares and bonds, according to the report.
European banks account for 26 percent of all bank loans to coal plant developers since January 2017, the report said.
While Chinese banks are responsible for 5 percent of such lending, they account for 69 percent of the underwriting, which refers to the process by which banks raise money for companies by issuing bonds or selling shares on their behalf.