Many of the world’s leading financial institutions have pledged in recent years to slash their support for the coal and oil industries. But a new report has found that hundreds of billions of dollars are still being channeled into fossil fuels, and Asia’s banks are doing much of that business.
Globally, 380 commercial banks lent the coal industry $315 billion over the past two years, according to the report, which was compiled by more than two dozen non-governmental organizations, including Urgewald, Reclaim Finance, Rainforest Action Network and 350.org Japan. The groups say their research is the first to analyze the financiers and investors supporting the entire coal industry.
The top three lenders to the coal industry were all Japanese: Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group. Collectively, Japanese banks provided $75 billion in loans between October 2018 and October 2020, according to the report.
While Japan leads the way in lending, the United States ranks second, providing loans worth $67.7 billion, or 21.5% of the total. American firms are also more heavily invested in coal than others, according to the report. Of the more than $1 trillion that the report found has been invested in companies working in the industry worldwide as of January, more than $600 billion of that comes from US investors.
Meanwhile, the world’s top 10 underwriters — banks that raise investment capital for companies by issuing bonds or shares on their behalf and selling them to investors — are all Chinese financial institutions, the report found. Chinese banks channeled $467 billion to the coal industry over the past two years, more than half of the total examined by the report.
The report analyzed 934 companies on the Global Coal Exit List (GCEL), a database of companies operating along the thermal coal value chain compiled by Urgewald. It also found that financing for coal has actually increased in the years since the Paris Agreement, the landmark climate accord, went into effect. The total ticked up 11% between 2016 and 2019.