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Japan’s SMFG likely to halt all new lending to coal-powered plants, sources say

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Japan's SMFG likely to halt all new lending to coal-powered plants, sources say 1

By Takashi Umekawa

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group is likely to halt all new financing to coal-fired power plants, including the most efficient ones, two sources said, reflecting growing pressure from investors and environmentalists on Japan’s lenders to cut funding to coal.

While SMFG has said it would not finance new coal-fired power plants in principle, up until now it hasn’t ruled out funding projects seen as more environmentally friendly, such as so-called “ultra-supercritical (USC) power plants” that burn coal more efficiently than older designs.

It is now likely to remove that exception from its lending policy, meaning a complete halt to new finance for coal plants, said the sources, who declined to be named as the information is not public.

Japan’s biggest banks are under increasing pressure from global investors and environmental groups over their long involvement in funding coal projects. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has also pushed to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions, on a net basis, by 2050.

“It’s a fact that the criticism from environmental groups has become so strong,” said one of the sources.

A spokesman for SMFG said nothing had been decided.

(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by David Dolan and Edmund Blair)

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