Citi’s $50 Billion Climate Pledge: Less Than Meets the Eye?

The Marketwatch headline

is startling indeed: "Citigroup to spend $50 bln over 10 yrs to address

climate change". Well, it depends on what you mean by "spend",

really. If you read through the very long press

release, the $50 billion number includes such things as the recent acquisition,

for $2.15 billion, of a US wind portfolio by Energias de Portugal. Citi might

be financing the aquisition, but it’s EDP which is really spending the money

– and in any case there’s little that’s particularly environmentally friendly

in one entity selling a bunch of windmills to another entity.

And although there are lots of genuinely admirable initiatives detailed in

the press release, nowhere does Citi pledge to cut back in any way on environmentally

unfriendly financings. Back in February, for intance, Citi was perfectly

happy to help lend TXU $11 billion to build 11 new and very dirty coal-fired

power plants. (TXU, now the subject of a private-equity takeover bid, has since

said that most of those plants will not be built after all.)

What I’m looking for, and not finding, in the Citi announcement is some kind

of statement of principles which says that Citi will not help destroy the planet.

Without that, the whole thing does ring a little bit hollow.

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