Nippon Life Insurance will become first major Japanese institutional investor to ditch coal.
News reported by Reuters that Nippon Life Insurance is going to stop financing coal-fired power plants should be welcome news for all of us who care about the fate of the planet.
True, it might not be news quite on the magnitude of Ireland divesting from all fossil fuels. But for fossil fuel divestment to work we need it to spread and deepen -- meaning more institutions, in more locations, divesting from an increasingly comprehensive list of fossil fuel-related interests. And—as The Church of England has taught us—we most urgently need to start with the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
As Japan's largest life insurer, with assets of $667 billion, this is a significant announcement in and of itself. But the Reuters report also states that Japan as a whole is currently one of the biggest financiers of coal technology in the world. Given that Nippon Life Insurance is apparently the first institutional investor in Japan to make such a move, activists will surely be hoping that it has ripple effects across the country's financial scene.
As I've argued before, the real test for divestment will be when folks divest not because of ethical pressures, but because continuing to pour money into the technologies of the past no longer makes financial sense. But every move like this brings that moment closer to fruition.