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While the world looked the other way, corporate giants abandoned coal

Can we deal with a pandemic and global warming at once – both urgent, one an immediate hit, the other a decade-long burn? Well, yes, because – even with front pages dominated by COVID-19 – last month saw an astonishing concentration of decisions by international corporates to ditch carbon. And they slipped by, with the world looking the other way.

AGL's coal-fired Loy Yang power plant in the Latrobe Valley.

AGL's coal-fired Loy Yang power plant in the Latrobe Valley.CREDIT:JUSTIN MCMANUS


Apart from anything else, April's tilt against thermal coal puts paid to dreams in Canberra of a new coal-fired plant. After last month’s shift, nobody will invest in it, nobody will insure it.

"COVID is a severe sudden shock," one investment banker told me last week. "It will be over some time, but decarbonisation is happening. Institutional investors are leading and the coronavirus has not slowed it."

He might have been thinking of Japan, once reputed a hold-out on climate action. Not now. April brought announcements from Japan’s three largest institutional banks to exclude any financing of new coal-fired power. One, Mizuho, had been the world’s largest private financier of coal.

For this reason Scandinavian investors had targeted it – just as this week the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, dumped its stake in AGL and placed BHP "under observation" as part of its policy excluding companies dependant on thermal coal


Read the full opiniion piece by Bob Carr published in The Age on 15th May 2020.

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