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Coal financing study brands British banks “climate killers”

Green finance news - by GreenWise staff
30th November 2011
Two of Britain’s leading banks – Barclays and RBS –have ranked among the world’s top 10 financial institutions branded "climate killers" in new research that tracks banks’ involvement in financing coal mining and coal power plants.
The research released by a group of environmental NGOs at the UN climate talks in Durban today, positioned Barclays at number five in the table of 'Top 20 Climate Killer Banks’, revealing it has bankrolled coal to the tune of €11.5 billion (£9.8 billion) since 2005. RBS, whose multibillion-pound financial aid for polluting industries such as oil and tar sands is already well documented, was ranked seventh having provided €10.9 billion (£9.3 billion) worth of financing to coal over the same period, according to the report.

The study, 'Bankrolling Climate Change’, attempts to show the link between banks and the rise in coal-fired power plants the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions and calls on them to shift their portfolios to renewables and energy efficiency.

It was carried out by urgewald, a German environment organisation, South Africa’s groundWork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg and the international network BankTrack. It examined the portfolios of 93 of the world’s leading banks and tracked their support for 31 major coal-mining companies and 40 producers of coal-fired electricity (representing 50 per cent of global coal-fired generation capacity). It found between 2005 and 2010, coal financing almost doubled, while the total value of coal financing provided by the 20 banks since 2005 came to €232 billion.

"Our figures clearly show that coal financing is on the rise," said Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg. "If we don’t take banks to task now, coal financing will continue to grow."

As well as British banks, the table listed banks from the United States, Germany, France, Switzerland, China, Italy and Japan. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest culprits were American banks with JP Morgan Chase topping the table with €16.5 billion worth of financing to its name, followed by Citi Bank (€13.7 billion), Bank of America (€12.5 billion) and Morgan Stanley (€12.1 billion).  British bank HSBC came in at number 20, with a coal portfolio valued at €4.4 billion.

Climate policies
Interestingly, the study, which also examined the banks’ existing climate policies, found almost all of them had made far-reaching statements regarding their commitment to combating climate change.

"The numbers show that their money is not where their mouth is," Yann Louvel of BankTrack said.

Explaining the reason behind the research, Heffa Schuecking of urgewald, said: "In spite of the fact that climate change is already having severe impacts on the most vulnerable societies, there is an abundance of plans to build new coal-fired power plants. If banks provide money for these projects, they will wreck all attempts to limit global warming to 2°C."

"Our study names and shames the banks that are destabilising our climate system," added Bobby Peek from groundWork. "Plans for new coal fired power plants and coal mines are meeting with fierce resistance all over the world and we are going to begin turning that heat on the banks."

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Coal financing study brands British banks “climate killers”
Barclays and RSB have ranked in the world's top 10 banks for financing coal
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