Green activist groups target Japan megabanks, utilities on climate action

Investor activist group Market Forces and other environmental nonprofits filed shareholder proposals with several Japanese megabanks and utilities, seeking to require them to disclose more specific plans on how they will work to meet climate targets set by the Paris Agreement.

The proposals target Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. and Mizuho Financial Group Inc. Power utilities Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Chubu Electric Power Co. also received resolutions, as well as trading giant Mitsubishi Corp.

The activists are calling on the megabanks to create and disclose transition plans that match lending and investment portfolios with Paris Agreement goals. They argue that the banks’ climate targets and policies aren’t aligned with 2050 net zero pathways set by the International Energy Agency and the Net Zero Banking Alliance.

The proposals were submitted by Market Forces, Kiko Network, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth Japan.

The move comes as Japan firms face increasing shareholder pressure over climate issues. The Asian country has a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, and both the government and the private sector have called on using a variety of methods to reduce emissions. Power producers like Jera Co., a joint venture between Tepco and Chubu Electric, are betting on developing technologies like carbon capture and storage and co-firing fossil fuel generation with ammonia or hydrogen.

But that approach threatens to extend the operational lives of both new and planned coal-fired plants, the activist organizations said in a statement.

A spokesperson for MUFG acknowledged the proposal and send it would “respond appropriately after internal discussions in preparation for its general shareholder meeting.” Sumitomo Mitsui and Mizuho didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tepco confirmed it received the shareholder proposal, while Chubu Electric and Mitsubishi Corp. were not immediately available to comment.

Last year, investors including Man Group Plc filed shareholder proposals with Japanese power producer Electric Power Development Co., calling on the company to issue new short and mid-term emission reduction plans and goals. The proposals failed to win sufficient support in shareholder vote.

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