Quantcast

King Coal Gets a Kicking at Warsaw Climate Talks

Climate

By Paul Brown

Coal has dominated the agenda in Warsaw, with demonstrations against the Polish Government's decision to hold a coal summit during the climate talks.

Scientists, UN officials and green groups said coal reserves must be left in the ground if the climate is not to overshoot the internationally agreed safe maximum temperature increase of two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, who had left the climate talks to address the Coal and Climate Summit, had an uncomfortable message for the assembled chief executives of coal companies.

“I am here to say coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone's sake," she told them. Coal use could continue only if carbon dioxide was captured and stored, otherwise the world should switch to wind and solar, which she said were already competitive on cost in many parts of the world.

During the coal summit 27 of the world's leading climate and energy scientists issued a statement saying investment in new coal plants without capturing the carbon dioxide emissions from them was unacceptable.

Banks' "Hypocrisy"

One of them, Dr. Bert Metz, a former co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said even the most efficient coal plants were unacceptable if the climate was to be kept safe—they were twice as polluting as gas and 15 times more so than renewables. Alternatives to fossil fuels are readily available and affordable, he said.

Beata Jaczewska, head of the Polish delegation at the climate talks, defended her Government's decision to call a coal summit at the same time as the climate talks by saying that “coal has to be part of the solution." Poland produces 86 percent of its electricity from coal.

Environment campaigners exposed what they called "the hypocrisy of banks" in claiming they care about the climate while providing billions of dollars to finance new coal mines, underwrite share issues and even own mines themselves.

A report, Banking on Coal, published by Urgewald, the Polish Green Network, BankTrack and CEE Bankwatch Network, “provides a who's who list of the financial institutions undermining the Earth's climate system and our common future." The report says American, Chinese and British banks are currently the biggest investors in coal, and if all the investments pay off then there is no hope of saving the planet from the ravages of global warming.

“It is mind-boggling to see that less than two dozen banks from a handful of countries are putting us on a highway to hell when it comes to climate change," said Heffa Schücking, one of the report's authors. "Big banks already showed that they can mess up the real economy. Now we're seeing that they can also push our climate over the brink."

American Banks Lead

In the period since the Kyoto Protocol came into force in 2005 four American banks, Citi, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, have been the biggest coal investors. Between them they have accumulated more than €24 billion into mining coal.

To expose their "hypocrisy", the report says some of the banks claim to be carbon-neutral while investing in the fossil fuel that is most damaging to the planet. Citi claims to be “most innovative investment bank for climate change and sustainability." Morgan Stanley will “make your life greener and help tackle climate change", while Bank of America claims to be “financing a low carbon economy."

The Americans do not have a monopoly on any hypocrisy, because most of the 20 leading fossil fuel banks mention their relatively tiny investments in renewables or energy efficiency, and make their underwriting of vast coal developments hard to find. All of them claim to be responsible lenders.

Chinese on the Rise

European and Chinese banks fill most of the remaining top 20 places in the table of what the report calls “mining banks." Researchers note that since 2011 the Chinese have stepped up their coal investments and have leapfrogged other banks to take four of the top seven places in the coal investment league.

Despite this, the U.S. has still been the biggest coal investor in the last two years, with more than €15 bn in direct loans or underwriting shares and bonds. China is second, with just below €15 bn, the UK third with €8 bn and France fourth with just under €5 bn.

Top 20 mining banks 2011—mid-2013:

  1. Morgan Stanley
  2. Citi
  3. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
  4. Bank of America
  5. China Construction Bank
  6. Agricultural Bank of China
  7. Bank of China
  8. Royal Bank of Scotland
  9. BNP Paribas
  10. China Development Bank
  11. JPMorgan Chase
  12. Standard Chartered
  13. Barclays
  14. Deutsche Bank
  15. UBS
  16. Credit Suisse
  17. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group
  18. HSBC
  19. Sumitomo Mitsui
  20. Goldman Sachs

Visit EcoWatch's COAL and CLIMATE CHANGE pages for more related news on this topic.

--------

Paul Brown, Climate News Network editor, is in Warsaw, host of the United Nations climate talks—the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP 19) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A harbour seal on an ice floe in Glacier Bay, Alaska. A new study shows that the climate crisis has warmed waters, changing ecosystems and crippling sea ice growth. Janette Hill / robertharding / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is accelerating the rate of change in Alaska's marine ecosystem far faster than scientists had previously thought, causing possibly irreversible changes, according to new research, as Newsweek reported.

Read More
Doctors report that only 1 in 4 children are getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Ronnie Kaufman / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Pediatricians are being urged to start writing "exercise prescriptions" for the children they see in their office.

Read More
Sponsored
A First Nations protester walks in front of a train blockade in Tyendinaga, near Belleville, Ontario, Canada on Feb. 21, 2020. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

An indigenous rail blockade that snarled train travel in Canada for more than two weeks came to an end Monday when police moved in to clear protesters acting in solidarity with another indigenous community in British Columbia (B.C.), which is fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off its land.

Read More
A rainbow snake, a rare reptile spotted in a Florida county for the first time in more than 50 years, seen here on July 5, 2013. Kevin Enge / FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr

A Florida hiker recently stumbled across a slithering surprise — a rare snake that hadn't been spotted in the area for more than 50 years.

Read More
We need our government to do everything it can to stop PFAS contamination and exposure from wreaking havoc in communities across the country. LuAnn Hun / Unsplash

By Genna Reed

The EPA announced last week that it is issuing a preliminary regulatory determination for public comment to set an enforceable drinking water standard to two of the most common and well-studied PFAS, PFOA and PFOS.

This decision is based on three criteria:

  1. PFOA and PFOS have an adverse effect on public health
  2. PFOA and PFOS occur in drinking water often enough and at levels of public health concern;
  3. regulation of PFOA and PFOS is a meaningful opportunity for reducing the health risk to those served by public water systems.
Read More