Greens to Banks: Stop Underwriting Coal

Rainforest Action Network says banks need to immediately shift their funding from dirty coal, or face the consequences.©

The California-based nonprofit Rainforest Action Network (RAN) launched a new campaign last week, trying to influence financial sector powerhouses Citi Group and Bank of America to shift their investments away from coal and other dirty-energy projects and toward clean energy alternatives.

Coal-fired power plants, while relatively inexpensive to operate, take their toll on the environment in several ways. For starters, coal mining devastates the environment and the viability of surrounding communities, especially when it takes the form of the mountaintop removal mining now common in Appalachia. But of even greater concern to environmentalists is the fact that coal-fired power plants top all other sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S., besides being the largest source of toxic mercury and a top contributor to air pollution, asthma and other environmental woes.

According to research cited by RAN, Citi was the top underwriter of the U.S. coal industry in 2006, with Bank of America following closely behind. Both banks are top lenders to companies proposing to build new coal-fired power plants that, if built, would emit more than 600 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, potentially negating other efforts to combat global warming.

"Bank of America and Citi have the power and the responsibility to stop the imminent climate catastrophe," says RAN’s Rebecca Tarbotton. "Rather than taking baby steps on climate change, these banks need to treat this crisis with the urgency they usually reserve for their fiscal bottom line and immediately shift their investments away from coal and toward a clean energy future." Tarbotton adds that until the two banks stop financing coal extraction and electricity generation, they should "expect a multilateral campaign that involves international grassroots pressure, shareholder and board engagement, protests and significant negative media coverage."

Sources: Rainforest Action Network; Planet Ark