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Protests planned at major banks that remain heavily invested in fossil fuel industry: Why?

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

New York environmentalists are protesting banks heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry as part of a national day of action Tuesday. Led by the group Third Act, protests across the U.S. will consist of rallies, art installations, and activists cutting up credit cards. According to the Rainforest Action Network’s 2022 Fossil Fuel Finance report, the world’s 60 largest banks invested over $4.5-trillion in fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted in 2016.

Vanessa Arcara, president and co-founder of Third Act, said banks like JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are some of the biggest offenders in the U.S.

“These four banks alone have provided well over one trillion dollars in lending and underwriting to the fossil fuel companies that build things like new coal plants, fracking wells, gas export terminals, and more,” she said.

Arcara said one person at a time closing their accounts with these banks will not force them into bankruptcy, but hopes these protests shine a light on what these banks are doing. Since 2017, several so-called “green banks, including one in New York, have opened. They are dedicated to investing in myriad environmentally friendly and positive climate change projects.

Some banks have made commitments to turn over a new leaf on investing in green projects. In its 2022 Climate Report, JP Morgan Chase aims to finance over $2.5 trillion dollars in sustainable development, with over $106-billion of green activities financed. Yet, according to Third Act, the company has been playing both sides of the environmental game. Arcara noted people need to pay attention to where banks are putting their money to use.

“A lot of these banks have signed on to the various councils, saying publicly that they’re in support of climate targets. But that certainly doesn’t bear out when you look at the numbers and the types of investment strategies that they continue to pursue,” she said.

Along with the large investment made in green projects, JP Morgan Chase, along with Citi, provided the most financing to offshore oil and gas in 2021, according to the Rainforest Action Network report. In total, big banks funneled about $53-billion into that industry.