China does not dominate global coal financing: US research study

“In 2020 Japan financed the most overseas coal power plants providing US$7.8bn annually, while Korea provided US$5.3bn and Canada provided US$4.3bn

Global Trade Review

Over the past 3 years, the Western media has waged a politically motivated campaign of misinformation, attempting to portray China as the “world’s worst polluter” and as engaging in a climate wrecking global spree of building coal fired power stations.

As China Environment News has pointed out in numerous articles, this is most often an outright lie, or at least a deliberate distortion of the data. The classic, racist version of this distortion is found when the assertion is made that the nasty Chinese are the “biggest” polluters. Behind this is a form of psychological demonization of the Chinese as “dirty”, “inhuman” and “devious”. It is a deliberate, thinly veiled message intended to evoke the historical Anglo-US racist fear of the “yellow peril”, suggesting that, if the truth be told, there are just too many Chinese.

Japan financed the most overseas coal power plants, providing US$7.8bn annually to fossil fuels, Korea provided US$5.3bn and Canada provided US$4.3bn,

This “code” is intended to operate at a subconscious level to ensure that very inconvenient facts are ignored. Such facts as, compared to the Western industrialized block (politically this includes Japan and South Korea) that per capita citizens of those countries, particularly the United States, Australia and Canada, produce double the amount of CO2 of Chinese citizens. Or that over 70% of historic CO2 emissions come from the Western industrialized nations. Or that that combined annual CO2 emissions from the Western industrialised bloc is roughly equivalent to China’s – before, that is, we add the 13% additional CO2 emissions from consumption relating to trade resulting from the transfer of heaving, energy intensive industry from the West to China in the past 30 years.

So, it should not come as a surprise to find that China’s supposed building spree for overseas coal fired power stations is also simply another falsehood, repeated ad nauseam by the Western media and political elites.

In fact, a recent Boston University study has found that Japanese and Western financiers bankroll most overseas coal power plants globally, contrary to the misconception that most new funding comes from public financing entities in China. Chinese entities accounted for only 13 per cent of financing for global coal power.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP) on 10 July 2021 published an account of the study, by Boston University’s Global Development Policy Centre, said 87 per cent of total financing for overseas coal power projects came from entities outside China, mostly from Japan, the US and Britain.

a large tower with a mountain in the background: A Boston University study has found Chinese entities accounted for 13 per cent of financing for global coal power. Photo: ReutersA Boston University study has found Chinese entities accounted for 13 per cent of financing for global coal power. Photo: Reuters

The SCMP summary of the Boston University study

Only 13 per cent of coal power capacity that was operational or under development outside China between 2013 and mid-2019 was funded by Chinese entities – dramatically lower than previously cited estimates, which had put the number as high as 70 per cent, the study authors said.

The study coincides with a growing push to dump coal power financing. In May, climate and environment ministers from the G7 countries said “international investments in unabated coal must stop now”. The G7 also committed to “take concrete steps towards an absolute end to new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021”.

Despite the lack of consensus on a coal exit date, the G7 countries used their commitment to put pres-sure on China to also stop financing coal power generation.

Researcher and project leader with the university’s policy centre Xinyue Ma said that, while China was the biggest public financier of international coal power generation and needed to accelerate its phase-out policies in the sector, “the lion’s share of the world’s newly added power coal generation outside China is financed by the commercial sector outside China and there is a need for greater data transparency”.

Export-Import Bank of China and the China Development Bank alone accounted for US$15.6 billion – half of all global public finance commitments in overseas coal-fired power plants that reached financial closure between 2013 and 2018. By generation capacity, the figure falls to 40 per cent.

But the private sector from the G7 and other advanced economies made up most overseas coal power finance in the world economy, the study said, while admitting that clear and official estimates were lacking.

According to the study, as of January 2021, US investors collectively accounted for 58 per cent of institutional investments in the global coal power industry, with shares and bonds worth US$602 billion.

Leading the pack is mutual fund company Vanguard at US$86 billion, and asset management firm BlackRock, with US$84 billion.

Investors from Japan and Britain respectively account for the second and third highest share of insti-tutional investments in the coal power industry, the study said, quoting research by environmental NGO Urgewald.

This found that between October 1, 2018 and October 31, 2020, commercial banks from Japan were the top lenders to the coal power industry, at US$76 billion, or 23.5 per cent. The US, with US$68 billion, was in second place, at 21 per cent, followed by Britain, which accounted for US$22 billion, or 7 per cent, of loans.

Taken together, commercial banks from these three countries accounted for 52 per cent of the total lending to the world’s coal power companies.

The top three lenders were Japanese banks – Mizuho, at US$22 billion, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, US$21 billion, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group at US$18 billion. In fourth and fifth place were Citigroup, with loans of US$13.5 billion, and Barclays, at US$13.4 billion.

“It appears that these commercial institutions are the main players in general cross-border coal power finance, and outside China, as well,” the Boston University study said.

Boston University Global Development Policy Centre director Kevin Gallagher said confusion over the underlying facts could lead to poor policy design, conflict and contention.

“Given that coal finance is an important priority for global decarbonisation, it is paramount that data on coal finance be disclosed and available to the public in a transparent manner,” he said. “It is equally paramount that private sector finance for coal be addressed, especially in the advanced economies.”

China has vowed to be net carbon neutral by 2060 and has pledged to cut emissions as part of its commitment under the Paris Agreement.

And in June, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China – one of the country’s biggest coal financiers – said it would phase out lending to the industry. The bank has already said it will not fund Kenya’s US$1.2 billion coal-fired power plant or Zimbabwe’s US$3 billion 2,800-megawatt Sengwa coal project.

A note from CEN Editors: We recently also reported on China’s move to withdraw funding for several proposed coal based projects in Bangladesh. See; as well we recently reported an important article from the German news service Deutsche Welle fact checking and debunking the common myths about China as the “biggest CO2 polluter”. See

See also: Global Trade Review, ‘Mixed messages on fossil fuel funding by export credit agencies’ 13-05-20.

Source: SCMP, 10 July 2021