By Matthew Green

LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters)United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged development banks to stop backing fossil fuel projects, after a report found the World Bank had invested $12 billion in the sector since the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

Environmental campaigners have for years tried to prevent the oil, coal and natural gas industry from producing dangerous levels of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change by persuading commercial banks to stop lending them money.

But the world’s state-backed development banks, whose support is often crucial in determining whether projects in developing countries go ahead, are also facing growing calls to starve the industry of finance.

Guterres urged a coalition of finance ministers and economic policymakers from dozens of countries to ensure development banks end fossil fuel investments and boost renewable energy.

“We need speed, scale, and decisive leadership,” Guterres said in a video message to a virtual meeting of the group.

Earlier on Monday, a report by Berlin-based environmental group Urgewald said that the World Bank had invested more than $12 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris accord, $10.5 billion of which was direct finance for new projects.

That put the World Bank far ahead of other development banks in supporting the sector, said Heike Mainhardt, a senior adviser to Urgewald, who wrote the report.

With the world already on track to produce far more fossil fuels than would be compatible with temperature goals agreed in Paris, the report questioned why the World Bank would back increased oil and natural gas production in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Mozambique.

The World Bank said the report gave a “distorted and unsubstantiated view,” adding that it had committed nearly $9.4 billion to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing

LONDON (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged development banks to stop backing fossil fuel projects, after a report found the World Bank had invested $12 billion in the sector since the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

Environmental campaigners have for years tried to prevent the oil, coal and natural gas industry from producing dangerous levels of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change by persuading commercial banks to stop lending them money.

But the world’s state-backed development banks, whose support is often crucial in determining whether projects in developing countries go ahead, are also facing growing calls to starve the industry of finance.

Guterres urged a coalition of finance ministers and economic policymakers from dozens of countries to ensure development banks end fossil fuel investments and boost renewable energy.

“We need speed, scale, and decisive leadership,” Guterres said in a video message to a virtual meeting of the group.

Earlier on Monday, a report by Berlin-based environmental group Urgewald said that the World Bank had invested more than $12 billion in fossil fuels since the Paris accord, $10.5 billion of which was direct finance for new projects.

That put the World Bank far ahead of other development banks in supporting the sector, said Heike Mainhardt, a senior adviser to Urgewald, who wrote the report.

With the world already on track to produce far more fossil fuels than would be compatible with temperature goals agreed in Paris, the report questioned why the World Bank would back increased oil and natural gas production in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Mozambique.

The World Bank said the report gave a “distorted and unsubstantiated view,” adding that it had committed nearly $9.4 billion to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency in developing countries from 2015-19.

The bank also

KEY POINTS

  • The New Jersey bill mandates total divestment from coal companies within two years
  • New Jersey Treasury Department, which administers the pension fund, opposes the divestment bill
  • The oil and gas sector now only accounts for about 2.5% of the market cap of the S&P 500 index

The State of New Jersey may soon order its state pension fund to divest from fossil fuels, following a long list of other state, municipal and national pension funds that have already done so.

In a recent op-ed published in the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper, Richard J. Codey (a former governor of New Jersey) and Tom Sanzillo (director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis) wrote that it is high time for the Garden State to pull out of fossil fuel investments — for both environmental and financial reasons.

New Jersey State Senators Bob Smith and Linda Greenstein, both Democrats, have sponsored the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill — Senate Bill S330 — which calls for the state pension fund to withdraw from fossil fuels.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit state pension funds from investing in any of the top 200 companies “that hold the largest carbon content fossil fuel reserves.”

The bill also mandates total divestment from coal companies within two years, and withdrawal from all other fossil fuel companies by Jan. 1, 2022.

However, the New Jersey Treasury Department, which administers the pension fund, opposes the bill, suggesting, among other things, that jettisoning energy investments would lower annual returns.

But the editorial disputed that assertion.

“The proposed legislation provides the right financial solution,” Codey and Sanzillo wrote. “Oil and gas companies once led the world economy and contributed mightily to pension fund returns. Today, however, and for the last 10 years, the oil and gas sector has performed