Activist shareholders target coal’s dirty money

The annual meeting of another European bank was targeted this week by shareholders unhappy about Commerzbank’s involvement in coal projects in Eastern Europe.

Shareholders of the German banking giant criticised the financing for new coal projects in Poland. Money is being provided through mBank, of which Commerzbank is the major shareholder.

Radosław Gawlik, President of the Ecological Association EKO-UNIA and anti-smog activist said:

“In the state with the highest level of air pollution in the European Union, society will be exposed to even more contamination. Unfortunately, some banks and financial institutions still co-fund or service funding of such investments and mBank is one of them”

EKO-UNIA said that current plans to build more than 10GW of new coal capacity in Poland would have a devastating effect on human health and the environment.

In a press release, ECO-UNIA said the biggest currently planned power plant in Poland, Ostroleka C, was likely to contribute to 2,000 premature deaths alone, as well as having a negative impact on local nature, with two Natura 2000 sites within the vicinity of the new plant.

Shareholders that are concerned about the negative impact of a business’ activities on human health, the environment and the climate have been making an impact across Europe. Last week, the Belgian bank KBC announced it would put a stop to all new investments in coal after shareholder criticised its involvement in dirty energy in the Czech Republic.

Katarzyna Kubiczek  of EKO-UNIA sai d CommerzBank should follow suit:

“If CommerzBank wants to support pro-health and environment-friendly activities, it should consistently stop granting, also through their subsidiary, new loans to coal companies or signing agreements concerning issue of bonds by coal companies. It should also implement principles and requirements concerning environment and climate protection for its whole capital group. We hope that CommerzBank won’t fund Ostrołęka power plant in Poland, or Energa and Enea which have created this project.”

Many groups have already stopped financing new coal projects.

The German insurance company Allianz, which stopped funding new coal in 2015, and is also under pressure for its links to the Ostroleka C project in Poland, this week announced it would stop issuing insurance for single coal-fired plants and mines.

Allianz also said they would withdraw all coal insurance by 2040 at the latest.

Regine Richter, Energy and Finance campaigner at Urgewald told Reuters:

“Allianz sends a strong signal that companies planning new coal-fired power plants are no longer eligible for investment.”

With 2018’s annual general meeting season just getting underway, further interventions are expected in the coming weeks and month.