17 April, 2020
SMBC, World’s 3rd Largest Lender to Coal Developers Announces Revised Policy
Massive Concerns over Ineffectiveness and Stalling Tactics
Tokyo, Japan – Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group (SMBC) announced its new policy1 on coal financing on April 16 (JST), drawing strong criticism by climate campaigners across the globe. The reaction was harsher than what was dished out to the Mizuho Financial Group (Mizuho), the second largest banking group in Japan who announced its new tightened climate policy the day before SMBC’s announcement2 .
Takayoshi Yokoyama, 350.org’s Japan Representative said:
“SMBC has announced that ‘Support for newly planned coal-fired power plants, in principle, is not provided, which is a step forward. However, the new policy still allows exceptions such as ultra-supercritical technology, which hasn’t changed from its previous policy, revised two years ago. Given the growing severity of the climate crisis and increased needs for more robust climate actions, SMBC’s revised policy is not acceptable. The exception makes the bank inferior to its domestic competitors – Mizuho who has just announced its tightened policy and Mitsubishi UFJ who announced its revised policy last year3.
It is also of great concern that SMBC can still finance Vietnam’s Vung Ang 2 coal-fired power project because the project will use ultra-supercritical technology. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation and 4 Japanese commercial banks including SMBC have been criticized by the international community while UK’s Standard Chartered and Singaporean OCBC and DBS had withdrawn from the controversial project4.
In order to achieve the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement, it is necessary for all developed countries to completely abolish coal-fired power plants by 2030 and by 2040 for the rest of the world. There is no room for new construction, thus SMBC’s policy exception to exclude those projects that have been provided support before the revision, is not acceptable. SMBC’s signing onto the UN Principles for Responsibility Banking is under severe scrutiny -whether it has a real intention to ensure their business strategy aligns with the Paris Agreement.
Furthermore, SMBC’s stalling tactic is obstructive when compared to its international peers such as French Crédit Agricole5 and Crédit Mutuel. Both banks have placed more comprehensive policies, which cover project finance and corporate finance such as corporate loans, underwritings, bond and share holdings for coal-related companies with clear phase out deadlines.”
Eri Watanabe, the Japan Campaigner for 350.org said:
“It is a step forward that SMBC has expanded the scope of its policy to include ‘coal mining’ and ‘oil and gas’ (oil sand, shale oil and shale gas, oil and gas mining in the Arctic, and oil and gas pipelines), pointing out the risk of stranded assets. However, the effectiveness of its measures to reduce greenhouse gases is questionable given that its policy does not stipulate timelines for ending nor reducing targets of its exposure to fossil fuel financing. Inadequately, it relies merely on conducting environmental and social risk assessments when they consider lending.
In order to fulfill its own commitment, SMBC, the world’s third largest lender to coal plant developers (provided US $8 billion between 2017 and September 2019)6, should start to regulate corporate finance for companies expanding coal related businesses. It is necessary to further strengthen its policy and to gradually and promptly phase out from supporting fossil fuel businesses.”
- Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, News Release “Consideration of ESG risks” (April 16, 2020) https://www.smbc.co.jp/news_e/e600579_01.html
- 350.org, Press Release “Mizuho, World’s 9th Largest Fossil Fuel Financier Restricts Coal Financing” (April 16, 2020) https://350.org/press-release/mizuho-worlds-9th-largest-fossil-fuel-financier-restricts-coal-financing/
- 350.org, Press Release “World’s 5th Largest Bank Moves Against Coal” (May 16, 2019) https://world.350.org/ja/press-release/mufg/
- 350.org Japan, Press Release ”Standard Chartered further restricts financing for coal fired power, leaving Japan’s megabanks and corporations to risk their reputations on new coal plants in Vietnam.” (December 18, 2019) https://world.350.org/ja/press-release/191218-2/
- Crédit Agricole Group, “CSR Sector Policy – Coal-fired power plants – March 2020” https://www.credit-agricole.com/en/pdfPreview/173424
- Banktrack, Urgewald and others, “Media Briefing & Press Conference Banks and Investors Against Future: NGO Research Reveals: Top Financiers of New Coal Power Development” https://coalexit.org/sites/default/files/download_public/COP25_PR_Logos.pdf (December 5, 2019)