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WHOLESALE BANKING | Cesar Tordesillas, China

Japanese, Chinese banks among leaders in coal plant financing

Chinese and Japanese banks are among the top 20 coal financing banks, along with those from the US, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy.

The list is led by JP Morgan Chase with Chinese banks, namely, Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and China Construciton Bank occupying 12th, 13th and 16th places. Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group occupies the 17th spot.

Since 2005, the 93 banks analyzed in a study have financed coal to the tune of $309 billion.

"Bankrolling Climate Change," released at the Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa, examines commercial bank lending practices in the coal industry. It was produced by several NGOs - urgewald in Germany, groundwork and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg in South Africa and international network, BankTrack.

The organizations examined the portfolios of 93 of the world's leading banks, analyzing their support of 31 major coal-mining companies, representing 44 percent of global coal production, and 40 coal-fired electricity producers, which together own over 50 percent of global capacity.

"We chose to look into coal financing as coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made CO2 emissions and the major culprit in the drama of climate change," explains Heffa Schuecking of urgewald. "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 degrees Celsius," says Schuecking.

Coal plants are expensive, typically costing about $2 billion to build a 600 megawatt plant. They can't be built without financing and "Our figures clearly show that coal financing is on the rise," notes Tristen Taylor of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg. "Between 2005-2010, coal financing almost doubled.

Interestingly, almost all the banks in the top 20 have made far-reaching commitments to addressing climate change. They've adopted policies and signed onto voluntary industry initiatives like the "Equator Principles," "Carbon Principles," or "Climate Principles, but it turns out that's just rhetoric.

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