Coal (KOL) may become the new tobacco if activist investors have their way; growing numbers of them, concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, are calling to divest holdings in companies that mine and burn coal.
The U.K. today joined a U.S. commitment to minimize funding of foreign coal-fired power stations and says it will seek wider support for the pledge from other nations and development banks.
What galls the activists: Global demand for coal is not in retreat. In 2011, coal was used to generate 30.3% of the world’s primary energy, the highest level since 1969, and the share slipped only to 29.9% last year.
Like tobacco companies, coal producers may move to paying high dividends to attract investors amid an uncertain longer term future for the fuel.