* Bank says initiative aims to help address climate change
* Includes financing for energy efficiency, renewable energy
* Critics of coal industry support say program disappoints
By Rick Rothacker
CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 11 Bank of America Corp
, which has faced criticism for dealings with coal
companies in recent years, on Monday set a new 10-year, $50
billion goal to provide loans and other financing for
environmentally friendly energy projects.
The second-largest U.S. bank announced the initiative as it
nears the early completion of a 10-year, $20 billion goal set in
2007. The bank also pledged to reduce energy and paper
consumption in its own operations by 2015 and to make $100
million in grants to nonprofit organizations and other groups
promoting low-carbon use.
The initiatives underline the bank's support for
environmental sustainability, while also bringing in new
business and reducing expenses for Bank of America, said Cathy
Bessant, the bank's technology and operations executive and
chair of its environmental council.
"For a company in a sector that is challenged for revenue
growth, this a real opportunity to create top-line revenue and
to continue to develop the financial markets for" renewable
energy, Bessant said in an interview.
Under the initiative announced in 2007, Bank of America has
provided financing for solar power projects, loans for making
low-income neighborhoods more energy efficient and loans for
At the bank's annual meeting in May, Bank of America Chief
Executive Brian Moynihan said a new environmental commitment was
in the works. At the same meeting, Moynihan also faced criticism
from environmental activists about the banks' underwriting of
bonds for coal companies and utilities that burn coal.
Amanda Starbuck, director of the energy and finance program
at Rainforest Action Network, on Monday said the group was
disappointed with the bank's announcement.
"This new commitment completely skirts that issue and makes
no strong commitments around actually reducing the coal, the
climate emissions, the fossil fuels the bank is financing," she
Bank of America has faced particular criticism for providing
financing to companies that use so-called mountaintop removal
mining techniques, practices which critics say have polluted
communities in the Appalachian mountains in the eastern United
Bessant said the bank has a policy of not banking companies
primarily in the business of mountaintop removal, although she
acknowledged that doesn't go far enough for community and
Coal "still comprises such a huge percentage of overall
energy that reducing reliance on carbon-based fuels will take a
huge combination of global public policy, U.S. domestic policy
and continuing to expand the markets for renewables, which is
what this commitment is all about," she said.
Other banks have also made environmental commitments in
recent months. Wells Fargo & Co has pledged $30 billion
in loans and investments, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc
is targeting $40 billion in investments.
Bank of America's announcement comes ahead of next week's
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil.
Bank of America Chairman Chad Holliday Jr. will be attending. He
is also co-chairman of United Nations Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon's High-level Group for the "Sustainable Energy for All"