• Reuters


More investors are publicly backing a resolution to curb coal project lending that shareholders of Mizuho Financial Group are expected to consider this week, the first time such a step will take place at the annual meeting of a Japanese-listed company.

As a new front of stakeholder activism opens up in Japan, advisory groups such as the Institutional Shareholder Services group and Glass Lewis, which advise funds worth more than $35 trillion (¥3.752 quadrillion), back the proposal in recommendations seen by Reuters.

If Thursday’s resolution is passed, it could push Japanese banks, one of the last remaining major holdouts on financing coal, to live up to recent commitments to end lending for the dirtiest fossil fuel as climate concerns grow.

“This is a pivotal moment for companies to show their dedication to the future financial and climate-related sustainability of their business models,” said Dewi Dylander of Danish pension fund PKA.

PKA has about $50 billion under management and will vote in favor of the Mizuho resolution, said Dylander, the fund’s head of environment, social and governance issues.

Swedish pension fund manager AP7, with $64 billion in assets under management, also supports the resolution, spokesman Mikael Hok said. It joins three investors who reiterated their support.

Anders Schelde, the chief investor officer at MP Pension, said he hoped investors such as BlackRock would back the move.

BlackRock, which holds about 5 percent of Mizuho, a stake worth about $1.3 billion, declined to comment.

Ostensibly aimed at getting Mizuho to align its business to goals of the Paris climate agreement to counter global warming, the resolution seeks to push the bank to halt backing for coal projects around Asia, a priority for the Japanese government and big business.

Mizuho’s board opposes the resolution, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass. The nation’s third-biggest bank by assets has already put in place metrics to measure against Paris goals so changing its articles of incorporation is unnecessary, the bank said in its response to the resolution.

Similar shareholder resolutions have succeeded in getting banks worldwide to stop financing coal and other fossil fuels.

But Japanese banks have been among the biggest financiers to coal over the last five years, Refinitiv SDC Platinum says.

In April, Mizuho said it would stop financing new coal power projects, bowing to pressure from investors and nongovernmental organizations such as Kikonet, a shareholder that is sponsoring the resolution.

Critics have highlighted the many loopholes that mean Mizuho will keep lending to projects in its pipeline and its distant 2050 target to cease lending.

But “in the real world the loopholes are not that big,” said Kimiko Hirata, international director at Kikonet, citing competition from renewables and growing opposition to power derived from coal.

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