Climate advocates urge US, China, Japan: Stop funding coal, fossil fuel projects

Published September 3, 2021, 3:20 PM

by Roy Mabasa

A Philippine-based climate justice advocacy group on Friday urged the governments of the United States, China and Japan to immediately end public and private funding for overseas coal projects and other fossil fuels.

Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)

The US, Japan, and China are among the world’s top sources of both public and private finance and investments in fossil fuel projects.

Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), said the US, Japan, and China must have bolder climate ambitions and should come up with a faster pace and more ambitious reduction targets to keep the temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“One crucial step in achieving this climate ambition is for the governments of US, Japan, China to stop overseas fossil fuel financing from both public and private financial institutions and companies,” Nacpil said.

The APMDD’s statement came as US Climate Envoy John Kerry held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and other officials in Tokyo early this week and is now in China for talks with Chinese Special Envoy for Climate Change Xie Zhenhua. The talks are part of the US effort to urge Japan and China to take more climate action ahead of the UN’s climate change conference, COP26, this November.

In a statement, Nacpil further called on the US and Japan to deliver their climate finance obligations.

“The US and Japan must fully meet their climate finance obligations so that developing countries can undertake a swift and rapid transition to clean energy, effective climate adaptation programs and cover loss and damage as they face escalating impacts of the climate crisis,” she said.

The APMDD’s official also called on Washington to do its fair share of the global action needed to help limit global warming to 1.5°C. According to environmental groups, a total US fair share contribution to global mitigation is equivalent to a reduction of at least 195% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. This calls for 70% domestic emissions reductions and a further 125% reduction achieved by financing emission reductions in the Global South.

“This is a responsibility of the US being the world’s largest economy and greatest historical and continuing emitter of greenhouse gases,” said Nacpil.

China, on the other hand, is the largest public funder of overseas power plants, particularly coal plants. The Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank accounted for US$15.6 billion, or 50 percent of global public finance commitments in overseas coal-fired power plants that reached financial closure between 2013 and 2018, or 40 percent by generation capacity, according to the data provided BY APMDD.

Both the US and Japan follow closely behind, supporting mostly gas and coal power overseas. US public finance for overseas fossil fuel projects averaged more than $4 billion annually over the past decade, according to Oil Change International. The Japanese government is the world’s third largest provider of public finance for overseas fossil fuel projects after China and Canada, providing $9.6 billion per year from 2016-2018.

American, Japanese, and Chinese banks are among the leading institutions financing fossil fuels globally for the period 2016–2020. Included in the annual report “Banking on Climate Chaos 2021” of top fossil-fuel funding banks are JPMorgan Chase (US$317 billion); Citi (US$238b); Bank of America (US$199b); Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (US$148); Mizuho Bank (US$124b); Morgan Stanley (US$111b); Bank of China (US$101.20b); Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (US$96.01b); and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. Group (US$86.26b).

Nacpil called on the three governments to reign in and stop private and commercial financing of coal and fossil fuels. “We urge the US, Japan and China to prioritize efforts to institute policies such as climate disclosure rules, green finance incentives, and climate risks reporting. We would like to see these policies implemented immediately.”

She also called on Tokyo and Beijing to end government support for overseas coal immediately. “We believe that ending public finance for overseas coal immediately is a commitment that the governments of the US, Japan and China can definitely deliver on. Such a commitment will make possible a fossil-fuel-free Asia way before 2050,” said Nacpil.

Nacpil also called on the three countries to drastically cut down fossil fuel use and transition to clean energy even as she sees the need to “increase climate ambition and action now”.

“Climate science demonstrates that in order to limit global warming to 1.5C, coal, oil, and gas production must all decline significantly in this decade. China and Japan can help lead the region together with the US to make sufficient emissions reductions and accelerate the clean energy transition. This includes stopping the build-out of gas infrastructure as well,” said Nacpil.

Kerry is in Asia for the second time as US climate ambassador, and ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to be hosted by the United Kingdom in Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.