The climate crisis is here and our banks are making the problem worse. In the short 5 years since the Paris Agreement was signed, global banks have committed $3.8 trillion to the fossil fuel industry. The banks that steward our money - yours and mine - are funding the climate crisis.
Groups like The Sierra Club, 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Bank Track, Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International (and others) work directly and in coalitions like Stop the Money Pipeline to target banks, insurance companies and asset managers that are financing and insuring fossil fuels. They push the banks to rethink the collective harm that their fossil fuel investments are causing, as well as the financial risk of a warming planet.
In the past few months, the biggest U.S. banks: Morgan Stanley, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have made public commitments to reach net-zero financed emissions by 2050. This is great news and has come about largely because of bank advocacy.
However, as the recent International Energy Agency report made crystal clear,
there is no path to reach “net-zero by 2050” if we increase our fossil fuel production and consumption. As all of these banks are still funding fossil fuel expansion, their “net-zero by 2050” commitments are, as yet, meaningless. Financial advocacy groups are continuing to call out this hypocrisy and are regularly pushing the banks to do more.
If we can’t meet net zero by 2050, the overheated planet will be irrevocably damaged.
The G’wichin campaign to protect the Arctic Refuge is a great example. When the Trump Administration and Congress opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling in December 2017, the G’wichin tribe - residents of the Refuge for over 10,000 years - formed the G’wichin Steering Committee to protect their land. Led by tribal members and in partnership with advocacy groups, the G’wichin Steering Committee members went bank to bank explaining personally what it meant to live, hunt and feed their families on the coastal plains of the Refuge. They told bankers how the industrial intrusion of petroleum development would destroy the sensitive caribou herd - their food source and way of life.
In just three years this powerful campaign got commitments from over two dozen worldwide banks, all six major U.S. banks and the five major Canadian banks to not fund oil and gas activity in the Arctic. These commitments were so effective that the January 2020 Arctic lease sale was a complete bust - only two bidders showed up. The Arctic Refuge has not been disturbed, and will hopefully be permanently protected soon.