In an effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline earlier this year, individuals and institutions pulled their money out of the mega-banks that were funding this destructive pipeline, that threatens American Indian lands and the drinking water of millions of people, while accelerating climate change emissions. This movement highlighted the role of banks in financing fossil fuel projects and ultimately climate change. By financing extreme fossil fuel infrastructure, these banks are responsible for the corresponding violation of human rights that the fossil fuel industries cause as they destroy the environment and repress those who oppose them, especially indigenous communities.
According to the current Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card, 37 banks globally are the financial pipeline for the most extreme fossil fuel projects. “Extreme fossil fuels” refers to coal mining and power; tar sands, Arctic, and ultra-deep off-shore oil; and the export of liquified natural gas. While overall financing of these sectors dipped 22% in 2016 over the prior year, big banks still provided $87 billion in financing in 2016, and $290 billion over the last three years, for unconventional fossil fuels. All this investment in fossil fuels – at the very time we need to cease development of those energy sources and focus on renewables.
While the significant drop in financing is positive – the level of the drop is insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement which a number of mega-banks claim to support. We need to phase-out fossil fuels, not develop new forms of highly risky fossil fuel extraction and processing. This new investment in fossil fuels lessens the likelihood of keeping below the two degree Celsius increase in global warming necessary to avert the worst impacts of climate change.
Role of Green America
Green America launched our Break Up with Your Mega-Bank campaign in the years leading up to 2008 financial crisis. We focused primarily on the abusive, fraudulent, and deceptive practices of the big banks that have wreaked financial havoc on millions of individuals, families, and communities – especially those with the least wealth. At the same time, we called on the megabanks, including Citi and Bank of America, to end their financing of fossil fuels. The banks agreed to make some clean energy investments, but these are far outweighed by their dirty energy portfolios.
More and more organizations then adopted “move your money” campaigns, urging the public to stop banking with big banks such as Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo. Green Americans increasingly moved their accounts to community development banks and credit unions. Many people had enough of the failure of banks “too big to fail,” that were bailed out with our tax dollars, only to re-engage in risky and destructive lending and investing practices.
The wisdom of divesting from Wall St. banks became further evident with the annual Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card first released in 2010 and the more recent call for divesting from mega-banks supporting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Now, with the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, the need has never been greater for individuals and institutions to divest from mega-banks.
Are you still banking with a mega-bank? For the sake of people and the planet, now is the time to switch. Visit www.breakupwithyourmegabank.org