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Italy's UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo join U.N. net-zero banking alliance

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FILE PHOTO: A UniCredit logo is seen in downtown Rome
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ROME (Reuters) -Italy's UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo and smaller Banca Ifis said on Wednesday they had joined the U.N. Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA), a group of banks committed to reducing their carbon financing and investment portfolio by 2050.

The alliance, launched in April, has almost 80 members from 35 countries, including Bank of America, Citigroup Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan. It has $54 trillion in assets under management, more than a third of global banking assets.

The Italian lenders made their announcements made before the U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, which starts on Oct. 31.

Alliance members are required to submit science-based climate plans that cover all types of emissions, set interim targets for 2030, and annually publish details on emissions. The banks have 18 months from signing to set their first objectives.

UniCredit said it would give details on its environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy, part of its new business plan, at an investor day expected in the fourth quarter.

"This is an important moment in our journey to a more sustainable future and is a necessary action to focus attention and ultimately make significant progress in this area," UniCredit Chief Executive Andrea Orcel said in a statement.

"To do otherwise would be irresponsible and would work against the customers and clients we serve," he said.

Intesa Sanpaolo said it would provide about 80 billion euros ($93 billion) to finance green and circular economy initiatives and for the ecological transition during the course of Italy's national recovery plan.

Chief Executive Carlo Messina said joining the alliance was "a significant step along a path that commits Intesa Sanpaolo to new objectives in the fight against climate change."

Ifis CEO Frederik Geertman said joining the alliance was an "important commitment" for the bank and the decision was fully aligned with past actions regarding environmental issues.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Edmund Blair and David Evans)