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A worker walking by the main gate of a coal-to-oil plant in Changzhi in China’s northern Shanxi province.
 A worker walking by the main gate of a coal-to-oil plant in Changzhi in China’s northern Shanxi province. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty

Almost half the companies involved in the thermal coal industry are expected to defy global climate commitments by deepening their coal interests in the coming years, according to a report.

The study, by the green campaign group Urgewald, revealed that almost 1,000 companies should be blacklisted by investors because they remain tied to the thermal coal value chain almost four years after the Paris climate agreement came into effect.

Almost 440 of these companies plan to build coal plants, mines or other infrastructure in the years ahead, according to Urgewald’s global coal exit list, which it produced alongside 30 NGO partners. Meanwhile, only 25 companies on the list have set a date to phase out their coal use.

Heffa Schücking, the director of Urgewald, said the findings should provide a wake-up call to investors who planned to continue to back companies linked to the coal industry as global governments signal a shift to cleaner energy sources.

“When we speak to the financial industry many believe that it’s important to stick with these companies through the energy transition. But half of these companies aren’t interested in transitioning,” Schücking said.

“We are in a climate emergency and a speedy exit from coal is more urgent than ever. Our database identifies 935 companies the finance industry needs to blacklist if it is serious about fulfilling the Paris goals.”

The global coal exit list includes all energy companies that either hold more than 5GW of coal-fired power plant capacity, produce 10m tons of thermal coal a year, or rely on coal for a fifth of their energy generation or revenue.

The list also includes a growing number of companies outside of the energy industry that are planning to invest in coal power alongside established energy players, or to meet their future energy needs.

The ongoing financial support for coal-fired power plants has caused the world’s coal-fired power plant capacity to grow by 137GW since the Paris climate agreement came into effect, or the same amount as the coal plant fleets of Germany, Russia and Japan combined.

The pipeline for new coal-fired power plants has reached 522GW-worth of coal-fired power plants, of which half are expected to be built in China, where four of the world’s top five coal plant developers are based.

China Energy plans to build 43GW of coal-power capacity followed by China Datang (34GW), China Huaneng (29GW) and China Huadian (15GW). The world’s fifth most prolific coal-plant developer is India’s NTPC, which has plans for another 14GW of coal-power capacity.

“Waiting for coal companies to transition is a recipe for runaway climate change,” Schücking said. “Unless financial institutions speed up their exit from the industry, we will fail the most basic of all climate tests: leaving coal behind.”