Climate groups respond to bombshell investor report on banks’ climate goals
Today the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) dropped a bombshell report that found 27 giant banks in North America, Europe, and Asia are failing the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. As the AP reported in its exclusive, “The evaluation is significant because it comes from within the financial community, echoing the idea that fossil fuel investments must wind down, which environmentalists, climate scientists, and energy experts have argued for years.” The report confirms what climate advocates have been pointing out for the past year: no bank has committed to end financing for new oil and gas exploration, and only one has promised to cut all coal financing in line with International Energy Agency guidelines. The IIGCC is a coalition of asset managers and owners, including climate laggard BlackRock, and has a collective $52 trillion under management.
Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that existing and planned fossil fuel projects are more than the climate can handle, underscoring that without sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use, we are, as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says, “on a fast track to climate disaster.” The report also warns investors of stranded fossil fuel assets that will amount to $4 trillion in a world where warming is limited to 2°C, and even more in a world where it is limited to 1.5°C.
In the five years after the Paris Agreement was adopted, six US Banks ― JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs ― provided nearly $500 billion in lending and underwriting to the 100 corporations most aggressively expanding fossil fuel operations, including Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, and Gazprom.
Members of the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition released the following statements:
“Fossil fuel companies wouldn’t have been able to drive up emissions without banks backing them. Today’s report by the IIGCC echoes what climate advocates and frontline communities have been shouting for decades: banks can’t be trusted to voluntarily lead us out of climate chaos, especially US-based Wall Street banks. We need President Biden and regulators such as the SEC, Treasury Secretary Yellen, and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to use all the tools at their disposal to keep our economy safe from Wall Street’s dangerous gamble on fossil fuels,” said Stop the Money Pipeline Co-Director Jackie Fielder.
“The IIGCC report confirms what impacted communities have long demanded, that financial institutions must be held accountable for their role in the climate crisis, the impacts from environmental racism and the violations against Indigenous rights. Bold action is needed now to reign in the financial sector's recklessness in financing the climate crisis,” said Matt Remle, Co-founder of Mazaska Talks.
“Since the Paris Agreement, six major US banks have collectively financed $500 billion to corporations that are rapidly expanding fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure. As devastating heat waves and fires take precious lives and lands globally—and the climate emergency accelerates—where are the government leaders willing to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and regulate the financing of these planet-wrecking companies? The IIGCC report drives home what the climate movement has made clear for years that in order to prevent catastrophic climate chaos, urgent action by governments is needed to regulate fossil fuel industry financing,” said Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Executive Director, Osprey Orielle Lake
“This report shows, again, that the world’s major banks have treated the climate crisis with moral recklessness, and governments have failed to protect people and planet alike from their boundless greed. We need governments to take seriously their responsibility to safeguard society and require change in the finance sector. The alternative is suffering at a massive scale, inflicted most intensively on frontline and climate-vulnerable communities that have contributed nothing to the problem. The ethical calculus could not be more clear,” said GreenFaith’s Executive Director, the Rev. Fletcher Harper.
“This report confirms what movements have long said: banks around the world are gambling with our future by continuing to finance fossil fuels and deforestation. Institutional investors like BlackRock must finally take responsibility for the fact that their investments are bankrolling the climate and biodiversity crises, and governments must regulate the risk these banks are creating for our economies and our planet,” said Moira Birss, Climate Finance Director, Amazon Watch.
“We’re coming up on 6 years since the December 2015 Paris Agreement and a new report confirms inaction on promises by those bankrolling climate change. Banks fueling the warming climate with cash are also still fueling anti-climate legislation; the study found that 99% of them don’t follow the Paris 1.5 C target. Maybe they should realize that their own shareholders share the same planet home with us all - profit or no profit. More green talk won’t keep that thermometer from screaming red - the time for follow through on promises of real action is now.” said Janet MacGillivray, Executive Director, Seeding Sovereignty
“Divestment from fossil fuels companies is an investment in our future. Our planet cannot afford anymore stalling tactics, and frontline communities can't wait for banks to appease the fossil fuel industry while our homes burn and flood, while our bodies are polluted, and while our children’s futures are destroyed for profit. It's time to set the standard for the banking industry, and stop the financing of fossil fuels now,” said Amy Gray, Senior Climate Finance Strategist at Stand.earth.
“Institutional relationships like IIGCC are incredibly important. While there has been clear progress made in our understanding of climate investing, asset managers like BlackRock, Vanguard, and SSGA still have a long way to go to tackle the crisis. For the investment management industry, the questions are no longer ‘if' or ‘why' but ‘how' and ‘by when'. The transition is a reality and those who do not adapt risk being left behind. Now is the time to act, to hold major banks accountable, and rethink what the asset management industry is poised to do so that we come together and drive real change, before it is too late,” said Mary Cerulli, Founder, Climate Finance Action
"This is not a drill and the stakes could not be higher. Climate chaos is upon us and the reckless inaction by financial institutions outlined in this new report will be paid for in mass human suffering and countless lives lost. We are way beyond any plausible claims by banks or asset managers that they are neutral actors in this crisis or that the toothless, greenwashed climate commitments they have currently made are anywhere near sufficient to meet the urgency of this historic moment in human civilization. For the sake of a livable planet, these major money managers must be held accountable for their actions and pushed to finally stop funneling billions of dollars into ever further fossil fuel expansion," said Laurel Sutherlin, Rainforest Action Network.
“Investor scrutiny of fossil fuel-bank holdings is long overdue. Large global banks have been greenwashing their climate-destructive financing for years, and investors have long brushed aside this negligence. As this report confirms, too few banks are incorporating climate risks into their financial statements, indicating a clear disconnect between their public net zero pledges and actual decision-making processes. Investors, regulators and the public must hold the banks accountable for their ongoing hypocrisy and climate-related harms,” said Hana Heineken, Senior Attorney, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
“This report shows big banks are woefully behind on making climate progress. Now the question is: What will investors do about it? IIGCC members like BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street are top shareholders of US banks like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America, but these banks have largely been given a pass for their terrible climate records. It’s time for investors to hold them accountable by voting for climate shareholder proposals, and voting out directors at the banks that fail to act,” said Ben Cushing, Campaign Manager in the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign.
The Stop the Money Pipeline coalition is a coalition of nearly 200 organizations working to hold the financial backers of climate chaos accountable.
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
www.wecaninternational.org - @WECAN_INTL
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a 501(c)3 and solutions-based organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.