Sunday, February 10, 2008

Will "Carbon Principles" put the squeeze on coal plants?

The big news from Wall Street last week was the adoption of a set of "Carbon Principles" by a number of leading financial institutions. These principles are designed to guide more sustainable investments in electricity generating projects. Most environmental organizations have responded to the announcement with cautious optimism. On the surface it seems to be good news for energy efficiency and renewables and bad news for coal -- the nation's leading producer of both electricity and carbon dioxide emissions. The Rainforest Action Network, among others, offers a critique of what they feel are the principle's strengths and weaknesses. (GW)

The banks said the new guidelines, called the Carbon Principles, would provide a framework for the lenders to evaluate the regulatory and financial risks associated with carbon dioxide emissions by coal-fired power projects.

"Leading utilities and financial institutions understand that the rules of the road have changed for coal," said Mark Brownstein, managing director of business partnerships for Environmental Defense, one of the non-governmental organizations that worked on creating the guidelines.

"These principles are a first step in facilitating an honest assessment of electric generation options in light of the obvious and pressing need to substantially reduce national greenhouse gas pollution."

The banks did not announce any guidelines for projects in areas outside of the U.S.

Under the new principles, the banks said they would promote energy efficiency by encouraging clients to invest in cost-effective demand reduction systems.

The banks said they also plan to encourage clients to invest in renewable energy and distributed technologies.

"Clean power is the name of the game today," said Dale Bryk, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a non-profit environmental advocacy group.

"Conventional coal facilities are already facing intensive scrutiny. We think the serious money is increasingly going to be on clean, efficient solutions," said Bryk.


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