Investors line up against Mizuho support for coal

TOKYO (Reuters) – Investors with nearly $200 billion in assets holding shares in Japan’s Mizuho Financial Group (8411.T) say they plan to back a shareholder motion urging the bank to cut its lending for coal and other fossil fuels, they told Reuters on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Mizuho Financial Group logo is seen at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

In an unusual showing of hands weeks before Mizuho’s annual general meeting in June, Norway’s largest pension fund and life insurance company, Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP), Storebrand ASA (STB.OL) and Denmark’s MP Pension said they would support Japan’s first climate change resolution.

It marks the first time a Japanese publicly traded company has faced a shareholder climate change resolution.

While they represent only a fraction of shareholding rights their support for the resolution brought by Kiko Network, an activist group and shareholder in the bank, the investors’ support adds to the pressure on the bank, which has already tightened its lending policies but critics say more is needed.

“As we await new strict coal and fossil fuel policies from Mizuho, we will without a doubt support the new climate change-based shareholder resolution … at this year’s annual general meeting,” said Jeanett Bergan, head of Responsible Investment at KLP, which has more than $80 billion of assets under management.

The resolution sent to Mizuho management last month calls on the bank to outline a plan and set targets so that its business practices are more in line with the Paris Agreement, the global pact to fight climate change.

“We are considering ways to strengthen our environmental and climate change efforts,” said a Mizuho spokeswoman, adding that this was “including but not limited to coal-fired power”.

Similar shareholder resolutions have succeeded in getting banks to stop financing coal and other fossil fuels. Policymakers and regulators are also pressuring financial firms to do more to accelerate the move to a low-carbon economy.

KLP is urging other shareholders to support the resolution “as we need COVID-19 crisis-style global urgency to address the climate crisis which is in plain sight,” Bergan said.

At Storebrand, which has about $80 billion under management, sustainable investment analyst Andreas Bjorbak Alnas said the fund manager will support the resolution.

MP Pension, which manages $18 billion and divested from major oil companies in September, is also backing the resolution, said Chief Investment Officer Anders Schelde.

Kiko Network and other non-profit organisations describe Mizuho as the world’s biggest lender to coal power plant developers. Mizuho earlier declined to comment on its lending to coal companies.

Japan is the only major industrialised economy that is expanding use of coal, hit by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 which led to the shutdown of most of the country’s reactors that once supplied about a third of the electricity in the world’s third-biggest economy.

Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by David Evans

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