FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2023
Contact: Jackie Fielder, [email protected]
Stop the Money Pipeline coalition members respond to investors filing climate shareholder resolutions at major US and Canadian banks
Resolutions call for top banks and insurance companies to make significant progress on their climate commitments; will require support from major asset managers and other investors
Indigenous land of Lenape Peoples (so-called New York, NY) – Today, several institutional investors — including the New York City Comptroller, As You Sow (AYS), Sierra Club Foundation (SCF), Trillium Asset Management, and Harrington Investments — announced the filing of climate-related shareholder resolutions at major fossil fuel financing banks in the US and Canada, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley.
The resolutions call on the banks to:
- Adopt policies to phase out financing of new fossil fuel exploration and development (filed by Sierra Club Foundation, Trillium Asset Management, and Harrington Investments at JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley);
- Disclose robust transition plans on how the banks intend to align financing activities with their near-term emissions reduction targets (filed by As You Sow at JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley);
- Set 2030 absolute emissions reduction targets for energy sector financing (filed by the New York City Comptroller at JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America (co-filed with the New York State Comptroller), Goldman Sachs, and the Royal Bank of Canada).
A slate of resolutions calling for policies to phase out financing for fossil fuel expansion was filed by the same investors at US banks in 2022. They received between 9 and 13% support, which was a significant milestone for these first-of-their-kind proposals. This year’s fossil fuel financing proposals have been updated to encourage banks to finance clients’ low-carbon transition so long as those plans are credible and verified. The previous resolutions were supported by many major institutional investors, including the New York State and New York City Common Retirement Funds.
New in 2023 are the resolutions on absolute emissions reductions targets for energy sector financing filed by the New York City and New York State Comptrollers, and the resolutions calling for disclosure of climate transition plans filed by As You Sow. The day before the resolutions were filed, Denmark’s largest bank, Danske, announced a phase out of corporate financing for companies engaged in new coal, oil and gas development.
Royal Bank of Canada and the six US banks have committed to align their financing with the goals of the Paris Agreement and to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. However, scientific consensus shows that fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with keeping global warming below 1.5C, and the big US banks continue to provide billions of dollars every year for new fossil fuel development — a fact underscored by a new report released just last week.
In response to the news, coalition members with the Stop the Money Pipeline issue the following statements:
Arielle Swernoff, US Banks Campaign Manager with Stop the Money Pipeline, said, “Any climate commitment from a bank that is still financing fossil fuel expansion is greenwashing, pure and simple. By supporting these resolutions, shareholders can hold banks accountable to their own climate commitments, effectively manage risk, and protect people and the planet.”
Michael Esealuka, Louisiana organizer with Healthy Gulf, said: “The Gulf South is ground zero for environmental racism and climate chaos. Every year we face worsening hurricanes, freezes and floods. Big banks are directly fueling this crisis by financing a massive expansion of petrochemical plants and gas exports in our communities. Bank CEOs like Brian Moynihan, David Solomon and Jamie Dimon made climate commitments — that should mean something. Instead they profit off climate chaos as the Gulf South is made into a sacrifice zone for fossil fuels.”
Jeffrey Jacoby, Deputy Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, said: “Shareholders at big banks need to know that continuing to fund the fossil fuel projects that drive climate change also means perpetuating environmental racism in the Gulf South – the very same communities who’ve experienced devastating impacts from climate disasters again and again.”
Adele Shraiman, Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign said: “Major US banks have fallen behind their global peers by setting weak emissions reduction targets and continuing to pour billions of dollars into fossil fuel expansion every year. Investors are uniquely positioned to push these big banks to stop stalling and finally take meaningful steps to address the climate crisis. We look forward to rallying support behind the investors that are leading the way on these shareholder resolutions to ensure the biggest banks are aligning their practices with their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
Richard Brooks, Stand.earth Climate Finance Program Director, said: “This action from the New York City Comptroller is exactly the kind of climate leadership institutional investors around the world must take. Banks’ lending and underwriting practices must align with science and justice. It’s time to cut greenwashed net-zero rhetoric once and for all.”
Ruth Breech, Senior Campaigner for Climate and Energy with Rainforest Action Network, said: “Our data shows that US banks like Chase, Citi, BofA and Wells Fargo fuel climate disasters and are the biggest funders of the fossil fuel industry. They try to dismiss this truth through greenwashing, lack of transparency, and moving the goalposts on progress. These resolutions allow shareholders to make sound long-term decisions on their investments. Fossil fuel companies like Exxon, who have misled the public for decades, can no longer be allowed to get rich at our expense – as they export the losses of climate chaos onto the rest of us. Globally we are moving towards a sustainable energy future. Shareholders can lead the way.”
Moira Birss, Climate Finance Director with Amazon Watch, said: “The Amazon rainforest – an ecosystem essential to global climate stability – is on the brink of collapse, and yet big banks like Citi, BoA, and JPMorgan continue pouring money into the companies destroying the forest to extract more fossil fuels. This financing not only destroys forests, the climate, and Indigenous livelihoods, but also the credibility of these banks’ climate commitments, and it’s well past time shareholders hold them to account.”
Mary Cerulli, Executive Director of Climate Finance Action, said: The largest banks have all made significant long-term climate commitments. However, they continue to fund fossil fuel companies through bonds and loans locking in new infrastructure projects for decades. These shareholder resolutions will require banks to disclose their transition plans, set specific emission targets, and ensure they hit their long-term net zero goals to mitigate the systemic risk of climate change.
Resolutions at insurance companies
Shareholders have also filed climate resolutions at Chubb, Travelers, The Hartford, and Berkshire Hathaway – four majors in the U.S. insurance sector, another financial pillar of the fossil fuel industry.
Green Century Funds filed resolutions with Chubb, The Hartford, and Travelers, calling on the companies to phase out underwriting of new fossil fuel projects. As You Sow filed resolutions at Chubb, Travelers, and Berkshire Hathaway requesting a report on how each company will measure, disclose, and reduce insured emissions (i.e., emissions from their clients).
Elana Sulakshana, Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, said, “Shareholders are concerned about the material risks that climate change poses to the insurance industry, as well as the risks posed by insurers’ unchecked support for new oil and gas projects. Some Republican state officials are attempting to turn financial institutions’ responsible efforts to mitigate risk into a culture war, but investors know that climate risk cannot be ignored, especially within the insurance sector. In the midst of mounting losses from Hurricane Ian and other climate disasters, Green Century Funds is sending a clear message to Chubb, The Hartford, and Travelers: phase out support for fossil fuel expansion and underwrite a clean energy future.”
Organizations are gearing up to support the climate resolutions at both banks and insurance companies this spring. Last year, members of the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition mobilized tens of thousands of everyday people to push major investors, such as state pension funds, BlackRock and Vanguard, to support climate action across corporate America. They are promising to double their efforts this year.
Comptroller Brad Lander manages the five New York City pension funds, which are valued at approximately $242 billion, making it the fourth largest public pension fund in the US. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli manages the New York State pension fund, which is valued at approximately $272 billion, making it the third largest public pension fund in the US. New York State led the resolution filing at Bank of America.
The resolutions follow a series of recent reports underscoring the scale of bank financing for fossil fuel expansion, and the lack of credible targets and plans to align with the banks’ climate commitments:
- A Stand.earth report revealed RBC’s surging fossil finance surpassed CAD $9.2 billion within one year of joining GFANZ, despite its public commitments to reach net-zero financed emissions. Since the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement was signed, RBC has pumped more than USD $201 billion (CAD $262 billion) into fossil fuel companies, making it the fifth worst fossil fuel financier in the world, and #1 in Canada.
- A Rainforest Action Network report showed that the big six US banks provided about $445 billion in financing for the top 100 companies expanding fossil fuels between 2016-2021, which accounted for one-third of the financing from the world’s 60 largest banks to those top expanders.
- A Sierra Club report analyzing the net-zero pledges of US banks revealed that their commitments and actions fall far short of what’s needed to meet global climate goals. The report outlines why it is essential for banks to set absolute emissions reduction targets instead of intensity-only targets, especially in high-polluting sectors. At present, Citi and Wells Fargo are the only major US banks to have set absolute emissions reduction targets for their financing of the oil and gas sector.
- The 2022 Banking on Climate Chaos report, to be updated this coming March, revealed in the six years following the Paris Agreement (2016-2021), the five largest bankers of fossil fuels in the world were:
- JPMorgan Chase: USD $382 billion;
- Citigroup: USD $285 billion;
- Wells Fargo: USD $272 billion;
- Bank of America: USD $232 billion;
- RBC: USD $201 billion;
- Two others – Morgan Stanley (USD $137 billion) and Goldman Sachs (USD $119 billion) – were in the top 15 globally.
The Stop the Money Pipeline coalition is a coalition of more than 200 organizations working to hold the financial backers of climate chaos accountable.