International coal financing is largely channelled to a small group of countries with the world’s highest absolute gaps in access to electricity, says a study from not-for-profit Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). It suggests renewable energy financing unfairly favours the West.

Day labourers unload coal from a cargo ship in Gabtoli, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, in February 2021. (Photo by Ahmed Salahuddin/Nur via Getty Images)

As of 2021, new coal-fired power plants are under active development in eight out of 18 countries with big gaps in electricity access: Bangladesh, India, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan and Tanzania.

Across all 18 countries, financial commitments worth $54bn were channelled towards coal projects between 2013 and 2019. Of this, the biggest chunk – $19bn – came from international public finance.

Conversely, international public finance only made up $23bn out of $103bn channelled towards renewables, less than half the value of financial flows from private domestic finance.

Financial institutions based in China account for 40% of the $42bn committed to finance 12.7GW of coal-fired power plants in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and Malawi.

Privately held institutions based in the US account for 58% of all investment in the coal industry.