350.org Japan
Rainforest Action Network
Greenpeace Japan
Kiko Network
FoE Japan

June 21, 2018 Tokyo, Japan -- On June 18, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) announced its “policy towards financing businesses with potentially significant adverse environmental and/or social impact” including coal-fired power, palm oil plantation developments and deforestation.

Environmental groups ー 350.org Japan, Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Kiko Network, Friends of the Earth Japan and Greenpeace Japan ー issued the following statement on SMBC’s new policies.

“We had high hopes for SMBC being the last of the major Japanese financial groups to announce an update of their social and environmental policy (1), following Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Mizuho Financial Group. However we are very disappointed to see the visible loopholes in SMBC’s coal-fired power sector policy, which may defeat the purpose of the policy itself. There is also a lack of clarity around specific actions that the company will take on deforestation. While we welcome the fact that SMBC has shown a willingness to restrict coal financing and address deforestation, this announcement does not come even close to addressing the climate action needed in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The decision that SMBC should have made here is to announce a stop to any new financing for domestic and foreign coal-fired power projects and companies involved in such projects, with a clear strategy and timeline. (2) SMBC’s recent decision in April 2018 to finance the Nghi Son 2 coal-fired power plant in Vietnam, which will utilize sub-critical coal technology and has been challenged by local groups for apparent violations of the Equator Principles, highlights the potential loopholes of its coal policy.

On deforestation, SMBC should have laid out clear criteria for halting deforestation and protecting carbon-intensive peatlands. Its mere reliance on weak certification systems and national laws is clearly not enough.

SMBC states that they are committed to the Paris Agreement and the SDG goal of “tak[ing] urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” We urge SMBC to step up their game by making immediate steps towards divesting from coal and strengthening their policies on deforestation.”

The NGOs also provide the following detailed analysis of the policy which reveals glaring inconsistencies:

“In the document, SMBC states that it will limit lending to coal-fired power plants that “use ultra-supercritical or more advanced technologies which are considered highly efficient.” Firstly, the policy’s inclusion of financing for any type of coal-fired power is insufficient when research endorsed by the United Nations Environment Programme clearly indicates there is no space to build any more new coal-fired power plants - no matter how efficient - in order to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees. More worrisome is the fact that SMBC states it will make exemptions for projects that [they have] already committed support […] or where the Japanese government or Multilateral Development Banks support.” This is a major loophole that will likely nullify the limitation that is set in the first place.

SMBC, like Mizuho Financial Group, also references palm oil and logging, which are significant causes of deforestation, which in turn contributes to climate change. However, for palm oil, mere reliance on the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or equivalent certification systems is not sufficient to address deforestation, management of carbon-intensive peatlands or human rights, and additional measures are necessary, including use of the High Carbon Stock Approach. Additionally, SMBC’s policy to prohibit financing to businesses involved in illegal logging and illegal land clearance activities is a good start, but not sufficient to achieve zero deforestation by 2020 as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15. ”

Notes to the editor

  1. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation: Establishment of policy for businesses associated with Environmental and Social risk
  2. 350.org Japan and supporting NGOs are currently running a global petition calling upon Japan’s three biggest financial institutions - Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Mizuho Financial Group, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group - to: i) disclose financial exposure to carbon intensive industries in line with the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD); ii) outline business strategies and clear targets and metrics to align their finance policies with the Paris Agreement; iii) cease all new lending to coal fired power generation and coal extraction projects and companies involved in such projects.


Kiko Network (https://www.kikonet.org)Tokyo Office: TEL. +81-3-3263-9210 E-mail. tokyo@kikonet.org
350.org Japan: +81(3)070-2793-3648 Shin Furuno E-mail. shin@350.org