Citigroup, Citing Climate Change, Will Reduce Coal Financing

  • Pushing transition from `high-carbon to a low-carbon economy'
  • Becomes third bank this year to reduce coal-mining financing

Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest U.S. bank, said it will cut back on financing for coal mining projects, in the latest blow to the industry that’s viewed as a key contributor to global warming.

Citigroup said its credit exposure to coal mining had “declined materially" since 2011 and that the trend would continue into the future. The policy applies to companies that use mountaintop removal methods as well as coal-focused subsidiaries of diversified mining companies, according to the New York-based company’s Environmental & Social Policy Framework guidelines posted online Monday.

“This new policy reflects our declining exposure and our continued commitment to managing environmental and social risks and opportunities," Elizabeth Patella, a Citigroup spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Bank of America Corp. and Credit Agricole SA both previously said they were turning away from financing coal this year, as activists and policy makers zero in on the fuel as the biggest source of the emissions blamed for heating up the planet to dangerous levels. Almost 200 countries will meet in Paris starting next month to negotiate a global deal reining in fossil-fuel pollution. The U.S. issued rules this year to wean its power-generating industry off coal.

“Climate change is a global challenge of tremendous magnitude, and Citi is helping to accelerate the transition from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy," according to the guidelines. “Going forward, we commit to continue this trend of reducing our global credit exposure to coal mining companies."

‘Major Momentum’

“With Bank of America, Credit Agricole, and now Citigroup withdrawing support for coal mining, this announcement shows major momentum away from financing coal by the banking sector,” said Lindsey Allen, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, an advocacy group that has pressured banks to cut their support for the industry.

Future approvals for coal projects will require “escalation and senior approval," according to Citigroup’s new policy.

Other fuels that also produce greenhouse gases fared better under Citigroup’s framework. Oil-sands projects have risks that “need to be identified, mitigated and managed," according to the guidelines, and the bank has “developed a risk-review process" for oil-sands clients.

The bank has a similar process for shale oil and gas, which must be “developed in a safe, transparent and environmentally and socially responsible manner," according to the guidelines.

In February, the bank said it would lend, invest or facilitate deals worth $100 billion over the next decade to support renewable energy projects and other efforts to rein in climate change.

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