Leading global banks have invested nearly US$2 trillion in fossil projects since the Paris Agreement was signed, according to an annual report card released today by the Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Honor the Earth.
“Alarmingly, these findings reveal that the business practices of the world’s major banks continue to be aligned with climate disaster and stand in sharp contrast to the recent IPCC special report  on global warming,” the organizations state in a release. Of the $1.9 trillion in total investment from 33 global banks, “$600 billion went to 100 companies that are most aggressively expanding fossil fuels,” despite the IPCC pointing to $2.4 trillion in annual clean energy investment needs through 2035.
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“Alarming is an understatement,” said Alison Kirsch, climate and energy lead researcher at Rainforest Action Network. “This report is a red alert. The massive scale at which global banks continue to pump billions of dollars into fossil fuels is flatly incompatible with a livable future. It’s an insult to logic, to science, and to humanity that since the groundbreaking Paris Climate Agreement, financing for fossil fuels continues to rise. If banks don’t rapidly phase out their support for dirty energy, planetary collapse from man-made climate change is not just probable—it is imminent.”
The report points a finger at JPMorgan Chase as “the world’s worst banker of climate change”, responsible for $196 billion of the $1.9-trillion total. All six of the U.S. top six are among the “top dirty dozen bankers” identified in the report, accounting for 37% of global fossil financing.
The report identifies the Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank, and JPMorgan Chase as the lead bankers for Canada’s top 30 tar sands/oil sands companies, with RBC accounting for $101 billion, the highest for any Canadian financial institution. Elsewhere, the worst offenders are Barclays, with $85 billion, in Europe, MUFG, with $80 billion, in Japan, and Bank of China, with $17 million, in China.
The research also identifies top financiers for Arctic oil and gas (JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, SMBC Group), ultra-deepwater oil and gas (JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America), fracked oil and gas (Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase), liquefied natural gas (JPMorgan Chase, Société Générale, SMBC Group), coal mining (China Construction Bank, Bank of China), and coal power (Bank of China, ICBC, Citi, MUFG).
“As fossil fuel companies are increasingly held accountable for their contributions to climate change, finance for these companies also poses a growing liability risk for banks,” the report states. “The fossil fuel industry is inextricably linked to human rights abuses, including violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples and at-risk communities, and continues to face an ever-growing onslaught of lawsuits, resistance, delays, and political uncertainty.”
“Banks continue to throw their billions at the fossil fuel industry, while announcing minor policy tweaks here and endorsements of the latest toothless ‘responsible finance’ initiative there,” said BankTrack Director Johan Frijns. “One wonders what on earth it will take for banks to finally change course and fully abandon the fossil fuel sector. Campaigners will be demanding exactly this at this year’s upcoming bank AGMs, armed with this report’s shocking new findings.”
“These banks are funding a future that will cost the well-being of the next seven generations of life and beyond,” said Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director Tom Goldtooth. “Indigenous prophecy now meets scientific prediction. Mother Earth and Father Sky is out of balance. Indigenous knowledge and western science both clearly demand that we must rapidly divest from fossil fuels in order to avoid complete climate disaster. Any financial institution that refuses to take action should be stripped of its social licence to operate and be held accountable for its investments.”
“We’re deep in a hole on climate,” said Oil Change International Executive Director Stephen Kretzmann. “There are people making ladders, and they think we can make it to the top—but—there are also people making shovels, and every day they dig the hole deeper. The people with the ladders don’t think they’ll be able to reach the top if the hole gets much deeper. The banks in this report are funding the people with shovels.”