Press release (abridged), 25th February 2021 – published by Urgewald, Reclaim Finance, Rainforest Action Network, Japan and 25 further NGO partners.

  • US investors hold 58% of institutional investments in the coal industry
  • Commercial banks providing more money to the coal industry than in 2016
  • Japanese banks are top lenders, Chinese banks top underwriters
  • Together, BlackRock and Vanguard account for 17% of institutional investments in the global coal industry

Today, Urgewald, Reclaim Finance and allied NGOs publish groundbreaking research on the financiers and investors behind the global coal industry. “This is the first time anyone has attempted to analyze commercial banks’ and institutional investors’ exposure to the entire coal industry. In past years, the scope of our financial research was limited to around 200 coal plant developers. Our new research, however, analyzes financial flows to all 934 companies on the Global Coal Exit List (GCEL),” says Katrin Ganswindt, head of financial research at Urgewald.

Top Institutional Investors in the Coal Industry

In January 2021, 4,488 institutional investors held investments totaling US$ 1.03 trillion in companies operating along the thermal coal value chain. Among the investors covered by the NGOs’ research are pension funds, mutual funds, asset managers, insurance companies, hedge funds, commercial banks, sovereign wealth funds and other types of institutional investors.

The world’s largest institutional investor in the coal industry is the US mutual fund company Vanguard with holdings of almost US$ 86 billion. It is closely followed by BlackRock, which holds investments of over US$ 84 billion in the coal industry. Together, these two investment giants account for 17% of institutional investments in the global coal industry. Based on their size, BlackRock and Vanguard’s coal investments are in a class of their own, but they are also representative of a much bigger problem. US investors are the single largest provider of institutional investment to companies on the Global Coal Exit List. With shares and bonds in value of US$ 602 billion, US investors collectively account for 58% of institutional investments in the global coal industry.

The Biggest Lenders to the Coal Industry

The research identified 381 commercial banks that provided loans totaling US$ 315 billion to the coal industry over the past two years. The top 3 lenders are the Japanese banks Mizuho (US$ 22 billion), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (US$ 21bn) and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (US$ 18bn). The 4th and 5th largest lenders to the coal industry are Citigroup (US$ 13.5bn) and Barclays (US$ 13.4bn).

The Biggest Underwriters of the Coal Industry

Over the same time period, 427 commercial banks channeled over US$ 808 billion to companies on the Global Coal Exit List through underwriting. The world’s top 5 underwriters are all Chinese financial institutions. They are in descending order, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (US$ 37 billion), the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (US$ 32 billion), the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (US$ 28 billion), the Bank of China (US$ 24 billion) and the China Everbright Group (US$ 23.7 billion).

Commercial Banks’ Support for the Coal Industry has Increased since Paris

The NGOs’ research also examined the development of banks’ lending and underwriting for the coal industry since January 2016. While direct lending for coal companies spiked in 2017, subsequent years show a downward trend in lending volumes. Underwriting of coal industry shares and bonds, however, has grown steadily since 2016. Alarmingly, commercial banks’ are channeling more money to the coal industry than in 2016, the year after the Paris Climate Agreement was signed. In 2016, banks provided US$ 491 billion through lending and underwriting to companies listed on the GCEL. By 2019, this amount had grown to US$ 543 billion, an increase of almost 11%.

“These numbers provide a sobering reality check on bank’s climate commitments. The new financial data confirms the findings of our Coal Policy Tool: The vast majority of banks’ coal policies have so many loopholes that their impact is almost meaningless,” says Yann Louvel, policy analyst for the NGO Reclaim Finance.

What needs to be done?

Ending the era of coal means ending the era of coal finance and investment. But the time to accomplish this task is quickly running out.

“Now is the time for the finance industry to act. A speedy exit from coal finance and investment is not only do-able and desirable, it is a question of survival,” says Louvel.

Press Contacts:

Jacey Bingler, Urgewald,

Angus Satow, Reclaim Finance,