Cliffside is a small town in southern North Carolina with a huge coal plant owned by utility giant Duke Energy at its center. Activists from around the southeast have organized and rallied and protested since a major expansion of the plant began in 2008. Unfortunately, despite the good work of climate activists to stop construction, the plant is expected to be operational in 2012.
In 2008, when controversy surrounding the Cliffside coal plant was at its height, six major banks developed and adopted a mechanism for addressing banks’ roles in financing high-carbon-emitting industrial projects. Deemed the Carbon Principles, environmentalists welcomed this bank-led commitment as a means of accountability for financing high-carbon projects like new coal-fired power plants. We hoped that banks adopting the Carbon Principles meant that they were getting serious about their role in financing global warming.
RAN’s new Carbon Principles report makes clear that we were too optimistic. Duke’s Cliffside plant serves as an example of exactly the kind of project that the banks should have been moving away from. Instead of taking the Carbon Principles seriously, however, five of the six Carbon Principles banks — Citi, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Wells Fargo — provided nearly $1 billion in financing to Duke Energy in 2 different bond offerings, both of which were within a year and a half of the adoption of the Carbon Principles by those banks.
Yesterday, I traveled with climate justice activists from Charlotte, North Carolina who worked to stop the Cliffside’s expansion to visit the plant. We held a banner in front of the plant to draw attention to the need for banks to develop meaningful climate policies that push them to stop investments in dirty coal and instead invest in the renewable energy of the future.
Its time that banks get the message and make real commitments to stop bankrolling plants like Cliffside that will spew global warming gasses into the atmosphere for decades to come.