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Four Canadian Banks Make ‘Dirty Thirty’ List of Global Coal Financiers

Four of Canada’s Big Five chartered banks have made the Dirty Thirty list of the world’s largest coal financiers, making the country the fourth-largest lender to the global coal industry between 2018 and 2020, according to releases this week by European NGO Urgewald and Toronto-based Shift Action for Pension Wealth & Planet Health.

The Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, Scotiabank, and BMO Financial Group bestowed nearly US$20 billion in loans to coal projects, provided nearly $21 billion in underwriting, and held investments in coal companies worth more than $42 billion, Shift Action writes, in its review of the Urgewald research.

The global analysis identified 4,488 institutional investors with a combined $1.03 trillion in coal investments as of January 2021, Urgewald reports. Between October 1, 2018 and October 31, 2020, 665 banks lavished $315 billion in loans and $808 billion in underwriting on the companies that appear on Urgewald’s Global Coal Exit List.

U.S. investors hold 58% of institutional investments in coal, Japanese banks are the industry’s top lenders, while Chinese financial institutions top the charts for underwriting, Urgewald says in a release.

“While many large EU investors have begun screening coal companies out of their portfolios, the vast majority of U.S. investors have refused to adopt coal exit policies,” said coal exit campaigner Katrin Ganswindt. “Our research underscores how dire the consequences of this failure are.”

In Canada, Shift Action says RBC placed 12th among the Dirty Thirty, TD placed 15th, Scotiabank ranked 21st, and BMO came in 29th. Canadian insurer Sun Life Financial placed 14th.

“The analysis shows that, five years after the Paris climate agreement, global financial institutions, including Canada’s largest banks, asset managers, and insurance companies, continue to finance the growth of coal in the midst of a worsening climate emergency,” Shift Action states.

“The ongoing financing of the coal industry by Canadian financial institutions comes as over 151 large banks and insurers have already blacklisted coal,” the organization adds. “Meanwhile, Canada’s federal government itself has committed to phase out coal-fired electricity domestically by 2030 and leads the Powering Past Coal Alliance to phase out coal-fired power internationally.”