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Cows stand on a field by the French energy giant EDF powerplant of Cordemais, one of the last five coal powerplants in France. Photo: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images

More than 100 globally significant financial institutions — those with at least $10 billion in assets under management (AUM) — have now restricted access to financing for the coal industry, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Why it matters: The International Energy Agency estimates that global investment in coal plants and mines has dropped by $38 billion (22%) in the past two years. Almost every other week now, a major global bank, insurer or other lender announces new coal finance restriction policies.

The decline in coal supply investment comes as the price of internationally traded coal has hit a five-year high, which historically would have stimulated investment.

  • Instead, coal production investment has fallen each year since its last peak in 2012, betraying the diminished faith that markets have in future coal growth or profitability. 
  • Clean energy investment, in contrast, reached $334 billion in global investment — nearly 1.5 times that of coal — in 2017.

Beyond limiting access to capital, this trend has raised the industry's costs and reduced its attractiveness to investors. Goldman Sachs believes divestment has been a key driver of the 60% price drop coal stocks have suffered over the past five years. At the same time, over $6.2 trillion in AUM have some form of fossil fuel divestment restrictions, which has driven sell-offs of the stocks and bonds in coal companies and commitments not to purchase them in the future.

Yes, but: Globally, there's still $420 billion in proposed coal plants in the pipeline, with construction finance in Southeast Asia, the last frontier for new coal expansion, coming largely from public institutions in South Korea, Japan and China. The current cohort of plants under construction represents $231 billion of investment committed in recent years.

  • Whether those East Asian countries will further limit available investment and favorable terms will be an important test of restriction policies.

The bottom line: Global investors have siphoned capital from the coal industry through a combination of policy restrictions, divestment, public resistance to new plants, and the shifting economics of coal and clean energy. Expect that trend to continue as more global financial institutions turn away from the economic and reputational costs of coal.

Justin Guay directs global climate strategy at the Sunrise Project and advises the ClimateWorks Foundation.

Go deeper

"Assassin's Creed," but for schools

"Viking Age: Discovery Tour." Image via Ubisoft

For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.

School enrollment fell by almost 3 million from 2019 to 2020

Kindergarten student Natalia Bayoumi holds the hand of her father Amir Bayoumi as he walks to the front door of Normont Elementary School in Harbor City, CA. Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The number of individuals enrolled in the U.S. education system dropped by 2.9 million from 2019 to 2020, according to new data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: This marks the lowest level of school enrollment for those under 35 years-old in over 20 years, per the Census Bureau.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against U.S. workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.