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Some Canadian Surprises in Coal Financing Report

Today the German group Urgewald released a bombshell of a report on coal financing, showing that banks provided loans and underwriting of US$1.5 trillion to companies on the Global Coal Exit List over the last two years, while institutional bondholders and shareholders held US$1.2 trillion as of November 2021.

The report is shocking, demonstrating that finance is still actively pushing in the wrong direction on the climate crisis, promoting the dirtiest of the fossil fuels.

But a couple of surprises stand out in the Canadian data which can be found here:

  1. Scotiabank beats out RBC and TD on loans/underwriting. We’re used to seeing RBC and TD top the charts when it comes to fossil fuel financing given that they are the largest banks. But when it comes to coal lending and underwriting, Scotiabank beats the big two – which is decidedly not a good thing. Like the other big Canadian banks, Scotiabank has a weak policy on coal and today’s numbers prove that. The only decent coal policy among Canadian banks to date is the one by Desjardins.
  2. Canada’s major insurance companies are undermining their own business. Jumping over to the Canadian investment numbers in coal, the banks are once again well represented in the top ten, even more so than pensions, but the big surprise is the presence of Sun Life and Manulife holding the number one and three spots. The insurance industry of course is on the receiving end of damages from growing extreme weather events and has rung the alarm about the threats of this to its industry. Both Sun Life and Manulife have “net zero” pledges, but if they are so heavily into coal, it’s clear that more shareholder accountability for those commitments is warranted.

Ultimately, if we can’t get finance out of coal quickly, this does not bode well for getting off fossil fuels more generally and having a decent shot at a secure future.

(Photo credit: “Open cut coal mine Hunter Valley”​ by Beyond Coal and Gas is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.)

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