Earlier this year, Bank of America and Credit Agricole both announced they were moving away from financing coal, citing a number of factors, among them the threat of future regulation due to coal’s impact on the planet and human health and pressure from environmental activists.
Now the Rainforest Action Network is targeting Morgan Stanley with calls to meet or beat its Wall Street colleagues’ commitments by adopting policies to end its financing for companies involved in coal mining and coal-fired power.
RAN says Morgan Stanley’s current clients include mining and power giant RWE, Europe’s largest single emitter of carbon dioxide; Alpha Natural Resources, which is still operating mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachia; and FirstEnergy, a utility in Ohio that is trying to convince regulators that consumers should bail out its fleet of unprofitable coal plants.
As the UN climate talks in Paris approach, RAN and a coalition of over 120 other civil society groups have teamed up for the Paris Pledge, a campaign calling on the global banking sector to stop financing coal mining and coal-fired power.
“The burning of coal is the single biggest source of carbon emissions, leading to already ongoing and increasingly catastrophic climate change,” Johan Frijns, director of BankTrack, which is spearheading the Paris Pledge, said in a statement announcing the campaign’s launch.
Climate scientists have made it very clear that in order to keep global warming within the two degrees Celsius threshold, the use of coal as a fuel source needs to end as soon as possible. “However, bank finance is continuing to provide the coal industry with last-gasp life support,” Frijns said.
According to BankTrack research, $500 billion in financing from more than 90 private banks flowed to the global coal sector between 2005-2014.
“Fortunately, we see signs that banks are beginning to understand that the days of coal are over,” Frijn added. “Many ethical banks are ahead and already do not finance coal, while Bank of America and Crédit Agricole have made commitments to pull out of the coal mining sector.”
Morgan Stanley likes to tout its own environmental credibility. While promoting Morgan Stanley’s new Institute for Sustainable Investing last April, Vice Chairman Tom Nides said, “Morgan Stanley is about being a market leader in sustainable investing, and that’s what we intend to do.”
If that’s the case, according to RAN’s Collins, then Morgan Stanley has some catching up to do.
“Even with its coal industry ties, the bank has not been shy in promoting itself as a sustainability leader,” Collins said. “It’s time for the bank to start walking its talk on sustainability by cutting ties to the coal industry.”
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