March 16, 2020 / 5:02 AM / 13 days ago

Mizuho faces shareholder climate resolution, in first for Japan

TOKYO, March 16 (Reuters) - Mizuho Financial Group will face a shareholder motion urging it 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.

It marks the first time a Japanese publicly traded company has faced a shareholder climate change resolution, Kiko Network, an activist group and shareholder in the bank, said.

The shareholder motion comes amid growing pressure on banks and other financial firms to rein in lending to coal companies and do more to combat climate change, and the strategy is increasingly used by climate change activists.

Mizuho’s coal lending is “putting the company at great risk of exposure to businesses that face devaluation in a transition to (a) decarbonised economy,” Kiko Network said in a statement.

Kiko Network and other non-profit organisations describe Mizuho as the world’s biggest lender to coal power plant developers. Although Mizuho tightened its coal lending policies last year, they say it needs to do more.

Mizuho declined to comment on its lending to coal companies. It is checking on whether it had received the shareholder motion, a spokeswoman said.

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 and which once supplied about a third of the electricity in the world’s third-biggest economy.

Japan has also long promoted its so-called clean coal technology that lessens pollution from coal, the largest single source of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

Some 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.

Japan plans to start a review by the end of June to tighten conditions for exporting coal-fired power plants. (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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