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1 Jul 2021

Ray Ndlovu and Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg Green

Zimbabwe: ICBC abandons plans to finance a $3 billion coal-fired power plant

‘Biggest Chinese bank ditches R43bn Zim coal power plant’ 30 June 2021

China’s biggest bank dumped a plan to finance a $3 billion (around R43 billion) coal-fired power plant in Zimbabwe, dealing a blow to coal developers in Africa that see the Asian country as the last potential funder of their projects. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) told Go Clean ICBC, an ad-hoc body representing 32 environmental groups, that it won’t fund the 2 800-MW Sengwa coal project in northern Zimbabwe, according to a June 18 email seen by Bloomberg that was sent to 350.org, one of the Go Clean groups. ICBC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Western and South African banks have come under increasing pressure from their shareholders not to fund developments that could contribute to climate change, leaving Chinese lenders as one of the last avenues to secure finance. That door may now be closing, should China plan to improve its own environment credentials. "This is highly significant, obviously for Zimbabwe but also for Chinese overseas energy financing," said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. "It is the first time, to my knowledge, that a Chinese bank has pro-actively walked away from a coal-power project."

…ICBC’s withdrawal marks the second time the bank’s coal-funding plans have been scrapped. A permit to build a coal-fired plant in Lamu in Kenya was canceled by the government last year. ICBC described Sengwa as a "bad plan due to environmental problems", 350.Org said in the email. The Chinese lender has been under scrutiny over the environmental impact of funding coal projects and is in discussion with the coalition to "chart a clear road map to stop funding coal", Go Clean ICBC said in the email. Nathalia Clark, the associate director of Global Communications at 350.org, declined to give further details.