June 25, 2020 / 4:58 AM / 21 days ago

Mizuho shareholders reject first climate motion put to a Japanese company

TOKYO (Reuters) - Shareholders in Mizuho Financial Group Inc on Thursday rejected a motion for it to align its business to the Paris Agreement, the global pact to fight climate change and its effects.

FILE PHOTO: Mizuho Financial Group logo is seen at the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan August 20, 2018. Picture taken August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The annual general meeting of Japan’s third-largest bank by assets was the first time a climate motion had been put to shareholders of a listed company in Japan. The motion received more than a third of the votes submitted but needed two-thirds to be binding on management.

The proposal, brought by Japanese non-profit organisation Kiko Network and backed by six Nordic funds including Nordea Asset Management, sought to rein in the bank’s financing for coal projects in Asia.

Mizuho’s board opposed the motion, which required a two-thirds majority to pass, arguing that the bank already had metrics to measure its efforts towards meeting Paris Agreement goals.

The climate motion received nearly 35% of the votes submitted, Kiko Network said by email, surprising some in the activist community who had expected a far smaller figure.

A Mizuho spokeswoman said the result was based on votes submitted before the meeting and the final tally was not yet available but would not change the result.

“For the first climate shareholder resolution in Japan to receive more than a third of the vote, even though it didn’t pass, sends a strong signal to Mizuho: exit all coal finance immediately,” said Anders Schelde, chief investment officer at MP Pension, one of the fund managers supporting the proposal.

The resolution called on Mizuho to formerly align its investments with the goals of the Paris Agreement to counter global warming, and principally targets the bank’s financing for coal projects around Asia, a priority for Japan’s government and big business.

Similar shareholder resolutions have succeeded in getting banks worldwide to stop financing coal and other fossil fuels.

Japanese banks have been among the biggest financiers to coal over the last five years, showed data from Refinitiv SDC Platinum.

Graphic: Biggest lenders to coal in recent years - here

Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Writing by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Christopher Cushing

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