* Revised lending criteria rule out regular coal plants* Board can tighten thresholds as EU climate policy evolves* Latest in series of moves by multilateral banks on coalBy John McGarrityLONDON July 24 The European Investment Bank, the EU's main lending arm, said it would stop financing most coal-fired power stations to help the 28-nation bloc reduce pollution and meet its climate targets. New and refurbished coal-fired power plants will be ineligible for funding unless they emit less than 550 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour (gCO2/KWh), the EIB said on Wednesday, which could be met either by a combined heat and power plant or one that also burns biomass.
"Adoption of the new lending criteria represents an important step forward in the European Investment Bank's commitment to energy investment that supports EU policy and reflects the urgent investment challenges currently facing the energy sector," Mihai Tanasescu, EIB vice president responsible for energy lending, said in a statement. The EU lender also said it could tighten the emissions standard in the future to ensure its lending criteria are consistent with EU climate policy and create jobs across Europe. The EIB decision follows moves by other multilateral financial institutions such as the Washington-headquartered World Bank to fund coal-fired power stations only in "rare circumstances".
Since the start of 2007, the EIB has loaned around 11 billion euros ($14.5 billion) to fossil fuel-fired plants, most of it to gas rather than coal, out of its total lending for power of 83 billion euros."The vote to introduce an emissions performance standard represents a step-change in the EU's fight against climate change and puts the bankers ahead of politicians in terms of tangible action," said Ingrid Holmes, of environmental think tank E3G in a statement.
She added: "With several directors pushing for 450 gCO2/kWh at the meeting, I'd expect to see it tightened further over the next 12 months as the politics of the EU's broader approach to 2030 (carbon emissions) targets is settled."An emissions cap of 450 g/KWh would mean that older, inefficient gas plants would also be ineligible for funding. The cap would have to be 150 g/KWh to force all gas plants to deploy largely unproven carbon capture and storage technology."The move by the EIB is very welcome, but more needs to be done. The EIB should strengthen its standards and eventually phase out its support for all power supply based on fossil fuels," green group WWF said. According to some observers at the meeting, Germany's director on the EIB board, which is made up representatives of EU member states and the European Commission, had urged that the bank should continue to finance coal-fired projects but was outnumbered. Germany relies on coal and lignite for around 45 percent of its power generation as it speeds up the shutdown of its nuclear power stations by early in the next decade in the aftermath of 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.
Britain's financial industry could lose up to 38 billion pounds ($48.34 billion) in revenue in a so-called 'hard Brexit' that would leave it with restricted access to the European Union's single market, according to a report commissioned by an industry group. If finance firms lose the right to freely sell their services across Europe, 75,000 jobs may disappear and the government may lose up to 10 billion pounds in tax revenue, the report by consultancy firm Oliver Wyman said. The study is one of the first to outline the impact on financial services of Britain's vote in June to leave the EU. The findings have been presented to the UK Treasury and other government departments, according to people with knowledge of the talks. There is growing speculation that the finance sector, which includes retail banks, asset managers, insurers and investment banks, will lose access to the single market when the British government negotiates its EU exit."It is in everyone's best interests for there to be a positive outcome to the negotiations that is mutually beneficial to the UK and the EU, causes minimum disruption to the industry and benefits customers," Hector Sants, vice-chairman of Oliver Wyman, and Britain's former top financial regulator, said. The report was commissioned by the main industry lobby group TheCityUK.
Banks based in Britain are pushing for the government to secure a transitional period for their industry in case it proves difficult to negotiate a favourable deal for the industry. The Treasury said in a statement it is working to ensure companies continue to have access to the single market."The government has been speaking to the financial services industry to make sure that we understand fully the issues that matter to it as we prepare for negotiations to leave the EU," the Treasury said. The future of London as Europe's financial centre will be a major negotiating point in Brexit talks with the EU because it is Britain's largest export sector and biggest source of tax revenue. Britain's financial services sector generates between 190 to 205 billion pounds of revenue each year and employs about 1.1 million people, the report said. The industry pays about 60 to 67 billion pounds in taxes.
The report outlines the impact of two different Brexit scenarios. In the worst-case scenario, international banks would lose all access to the single market, known as a 'hard Brexit', which would lead to a fall in revenue of between 32 to 38 billion pounds and put 65,000 to 75,000 jobs at risk, the report said. If Britain keeps its access to the European Economic Area on similar terms to now then only 4,000 jobs might disappear and it would lose about 2 billion pounds in revenue.
Property investor Richard Tice, chairman of a new lobby group pushing the government for a clean break with the EU, said the report was exaggerated and other European capitals lacked the infrastructure or skills to take financial services business from Britain. The report is "designed to scare people with special pleading. However, it lacks credibility," he said. "Brexit is a huge opportunity for the City." Pro-Brexit supporters say the City could benefit from lower regulation and by refocusing on faster-growing economies in Asia.