BANKS DEMAND EMISSIONS STANDARDS
Historians may very well point to this three-bank pact as a minor historic document. "The Carbon Principles" officially recognize the need for power companies to consider the cost of emissions.
Mark Brownstein, Environmental Defense: "The days of conventional coal are over…"
If this is an historic document, some environmentalists might say it is more like 1774's A Declaration of Rights and Grievances than 1776's The Declaration of Independence. Rebecca Tarbotton, Rainforest Action Network: "They've bitten off a little piece…What we really need is an actual carbon principle that would include a commitment to reduce the financed-emissions across all sectors…"
Nevertheless, make no mistake: Emissions reduction legislation establishing caps and a credit trading system is coming. One if by land, two if by sea, but it is coming. And when it gets here, it will cause a revolution in power production. Dale Bryk, Natural Resources Defense Council: "…Clean power is the name of the game today. Conventional coal facilities are already facing intensive scrutiny. We think the serious money is increasingly going to be on clean, efficient solutions."
The Senate will this year reconcile competing proposals. Soon the U.S. will have a cap-and-trade system. The banks and utilities who undertook these "Carbon Principles" see it coming. (click to enlarge
Banks set emissions standards for US coal lending
Lisa Lee (w/Timothy Gardner, Brian Moss and Tim Dobbyn), February 4, 2008 (Reuters)
Banks Set Carbon Guidelines
Debra Borchardt, February 4, 2008 (The Street)
Wall Street banks (Citigroup Inc, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley); Utilities (American Electric Power Co, Southern Co); Environmental groups (Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, Rainforest Action Network)
- The Wall Street banks will require power companies borrowing for new plants to meet a set of guidelines they are calling "The Carbon Principles." The “Principles” fold climate change concerns into the lending process and include a consideration of anticipated U.S. emissions reduction legislation. The principles: (1) energy efficiency; (2) renewable/low-carbon distributed energy technologies; (3) advanced power generation.
In a carbon-constrained market, competition changes. The banks are now demanding that the power companies prepare.(click to enlarge)
- The U.S. Senate will this spring take up legislation instituting a national mandatory cap-and-trade system that would cap emissions and charge for the kind of excessive emissions generated by coal-fired power plants.
- The legislation may not pass until after the November election.
- Many new coal plants are being planned.
- The banks intend to make the “Principles” the industry standard.
- Texas, Florida and Kansas have recently cancelled plans for coal-fired power plants due to concerns about emissions and coming costs.
- More banks and lending institutions are expected to sign on to the “Principles.”
- Coal is about 50% of U.S. electricity generation and by far the most emissions-intensive power source.
- The “Principles” make loans more accessible to proposed plants with elements of efficiency or carbon capture technology.
- The utilities involved in the development of the “Principles” are only buying into the efficiency proposals but say the will “consider” New Energy.
- The banks’ recognize the necessity of coal and gas in the short term.
This choice may look different to even the hardest-hearted utility when the cost of emissions is on the table. (click to enlarge)
- Jeffrey Holzschuh, vice chairman, Morgan Stanley: “The standards do not preclude bank financing for building traditional coal-burning power plants…Instead, they set up a more rigorous evaluation process, such as looking at the costs of storing carbon emissions and other risk factors…I think there will be several other banks that will join in over the next few weeks…"
- Mark Brownstein, Environmental Defense: "Having just come from the subprime mess, financial institutions are taking a second look at their risk management practices…Taking into account future CO2 liabilities is the way to make sure that the investments you make today don't come back to bite you tomorrow…"