Citigroup Still Falls Short After Stepping Away from Coal, Arctic Oil and Gas Financing
Citigroup Inc., one of the three largest banks in the United States, is promising to cut off financial services for new and expanded thermal coal mines and power plants, Arctic oil and gas activities, and projects that harm the Outstanding Universal Value of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in an updated energy policy issued Monday.
“Citi recognizes that emissions from fossil fuel sectors in particular must be drastically reduced in the coming decade,” the bank said in the statement. “The shift away from fossil fuels in pursuit of renewable and other sources of low-carbon energy will have a significant effect on clients in coal-fired power generation, coal mining, and certain segments of the energy sector.”
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Bloomberg says Citi “has been vocal about its efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. Last year, it reached a goal four years ahead of schedule to finance US$100 billion of activities that address the problem.” Veteran climate journalist Emily Atkin adds that the announcement “was in part the product of years pressure from the Sierra Club and the Gwich’in, a group of Indigenous peoples who live in Canada and Alaska, and for whom the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is sacred.”
She says Citi’s decision “is a big deal from a climate perspective. The coal part is important, of course—but coal is already dying pretty rapidly.” But Arctic drilling “is a bit different. As global warming melts the Arctic, the region is becoming more accessible to mineral exploration—and oil companies, aided by the Trump administration, want to reap the benefits,” despite dire consequences for an ecologically sensitive region, the climate impacts, and the outcomes for Indigenous communities and wildlife.
Citing a Sierra Club release, Atkin notes that Citi still hasn’t sworn off funding for fracking or tar sands/oil sands projects—and the Gwich’in still have their sights set on two big U.S. banks, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley, that haven’t yet ruled out investments in Arctic drilling. “The fight to protect this place is far from over,” said Gwich’in Steering Committee Executive Director Bernadette Demientieff, “and we will continue to hold accountable any bank, oil company, or politician that seeks to benefit from its destruction.”
In a release, the Rainforest Action Network points out that Citi is still moving fast on new oil and gas investments: it was recently identified as the world’s third-largest fossil funder since adoption of the 2015 Paris Agreement, co-led a $1.25-billion bond issuance for TC Energy, the pipeliner formerly known as TransCanada and its Keystone XL pipeline, and has remained a top financier of crude oil development in the environmentally fragile Amazon. It’s also one of four U.S. banks working to set up their own oil and gas companies to buy out failing fossils in which they previously invested.
“If Citi wants to stop supporting new coal plants, as the worst Wall Street banker of coal power by a 55% margin, it must stop financing the companies planning new coal power projects,” said Alison Kirsch, RAN’s Climate and Energy Lead Researcher. “And if Citi wants to back up its climate and Indigenous rights rhetoric, it must end support for companies expanding fossil fuels across the board—like TC Energy, which aims to move ahead with construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.”