Turning Point

Giving Up on Coal

Source: dpa Picture-Alliance / Horst Ossinger
The market is having an effect on the fossil fuel industry.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    As politicians focus more attention to preventing climate change, the financial industry appears to be following suit.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The U.N. Climate Change conference is taking place this year from Nov. 30 – Dec. 11.
    • World leaders are trying to reach a universal, binding agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Scientists say that without such measures, climate change will have catastrophic environmental consequences.
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  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

International climate politics has reached a turning point, French president François Hollande said at the opening of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on Monday.

In his upbeat statement, Mr. Hollande spoke of hopes that political leaders would come to a binding agreement on climate change. But there may be a different kind of turning point taking place elsewhere. While delegates from 150 countries haggled over the clauses of an agreement on global carbon emissions, others were taking more immediate action.

That’s because the invisible hand of the market punishes polluters more harshly than any government would dare. And now the financial sector is turning off the money tap for the coal industry, the biggest climate change offender of all. We really are at a turning point.

Until recently, major corporations had one main climate change strategy: the energetic pursuit of “greenwashing,” the name given to bogus displays of environmental virtue. They would plant some trees in a burned-out rain forest. Or put up a nice windmill in a field somewhere. Or donate a few solar panels to Africa. But their core business remained untouched by all this, and CO2 emissions were the last thing on their minds.

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