Where We Stand
A report from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in August 2021, concluded that "global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.” In addition, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a May 2021 report that no new oil, gas and coal supply projects should be built, if the world wanted to reduce GHG emissions to net-zero by 2050.
Despite the signing of the Paris Climate Accord at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) in late 2015, and then the world's governments attending international meetings nearly every year since then, including COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland in late 2021, the world's nations still haven't taken global warming seriously enough. As a result, the world now faces a dire situation.
When the latest Fossil Fuel Finance Report "hit the newsstands" in March 2021, it probably wasn't a surprise to most people that it found that most private sector banks around the world weren't taking the climate crisis seriously enough either. The study, authored by Rainforest Action Network and others, found that in the five years since the Paris Climate Accord, the world’s 60 largest banks have financed fossil fuels to a total of $3.8 trillion.
As one would have imagined, U.S. banks have led the way with JPMorgan Chase (Chase Bank), Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America taking the top four slots in financing climate-wrecking fuels. In recent years, Climate First! has confronted major fossil-fuel investors Wells Fargo and Chase Bank regarding the fossil fuel funding issue. However, given the latest statistics, we are now targeting the above four banks.
Image: JPMorgan Chase & Co. world headquarters
in NYC; April 17, 2019. Credit: JOHANNES EISELE/
Where Do the Banks Stand?
Trying to address their climate pollution problem, Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America have established a 2050 deadline for achieving net-zero carbon (or greenhouse gas) emissions in all of their operations, including the financing of fossil fuels. While we certainly applaud their formal plans to deal with their contributions to climate chaos, as usual--the "devil is in the details", which mostly haven't been released yet.
For one, none of the lenders have agreed to end financing fossil fuel expansion, which the IEA concluded was critical to saving our climate. In addition, the details that banks have publicly released often permit the lender to continue to grow its investments in fossil fuels while also engaging in some action that reduces carbon pollution in the atmosphere--hence the phrase, "net-zero." But continuing to release greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the environment, while pulling some out elsewhere, isn't going to save the climate. Rather, the world needs absolute GHG emission reductions immediately. Since the four banks' net-zero emissions plans presently are greatly lacking in addressing our unraveling climate, Climate First! and others have some work to do.
Our Way Forward
In view of the above, Climate First!'s #DefundClimateChange" campaign will focus on encouraging Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America to stop funding any fossil fuel expansion, while simultaneously beginning to dramatically reduce their overall financing of fossil fuel companies and projects. Since JPMorgan Chase again leads--by a wide margin--all the banks in the world over the past five years in funding fossil fuels, our campaign will often target Chase Bank.
A. Communicate your concerns to one or more of the four banks using traditional means or social media:
- Use Facebook: Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America. For helpful resources to review beforehand, check out the Fossil Fuel Finance Report 2021 and Customers for Climate Justice. (More info will be posted here in the near future.)
B. Bank customers of the four lenders can express their views:
- Sign an open letter to your bank's CEO. These letters were authored by Customers For Climate Justice (C4CJ), a campaign created by the nationwide coalition, Stop the Money Pipeline (STMP). Climate First! is a long-time member of the 120 group STMP coalition that is pushing U.S. financial institutions to stop financing fossil fuels.
- Also, as part of the C4CJ campaign and Climate First!, you can schedule a meeting with the manager of a local branch of your bank to talk about the her/his employer's investments in fossil fuels.
- Again as part of the C4CJ campaign and Climate First!, you can organize other customers of the four banks to schedule meetings with their branch managers.
- Finally, as a C4CJ organizer, you can try to schedule a meeting with the bank's CEO about your concerns.
- Climate First! and STMP will help you whatever (above action) you choose.
C. Join Climate First! as we work with STMP, Friends of the Earth, and others to convince Bank of America not to provide financing to Formosa Plastics in its efforts to build a massive plastic factory in St. James, Louisiana. Building a huge plastics plant in an area already called "Cancer Alley, near an African-American community that has been suffering from terrible pollution for years, not to mention the global warming pollution that will be released, is beyond outrageous.
D. Finally, attend Climate First!'s periodic direct actions against the four banks. Our actions--often "bank walks" where we visit nearby bank branches back-to-back--are peaceful rallies/protests where we respectfully inform employees and customers at local bank branch of our great concern with the climate issue. Note: First, all our live actions are run in a Covid-safe manner. Also, civil disobedience is an activism tool that we sometimes use in our actions but only after careful planning and training.
Climate First! photo history: After the permit for the KXL pipeline was approved by the State Dept in 2017, Climate First! attended an emergency rally near the White House to show its resolve in opposing the project.