With digital bank takeovers, petition drives, and a “Move Your Money” push, tens of thousands turn up the heat on Wall Street to end the financing of fossil fuels and deforestation
Washington, D.C. — Tens of thousands of people tuned into the second day of Earth Day Live today to learn how they could help “stop the money pipeline” flowing from Wall Street to the fossil fuel industry and prevent the Trump Administration from sending bailout money to big polluters instead of people in need.
The 12-hour live stream was another clear sign of how the climate movement is now focusing even more of its energy on taking on the Wall Street institutions and investors who are financing the climate crisis by continuing to invest in fossil fuels and deforestation.
Supporters of Stop the Money Pipeline went after a number of those institutions directly on Thursday. Since activists couldn’t occupy Chase bank branches as they had planned because of the coronavirus, organizers with 350PDX hosted a “Digital Chase Bank Takeover,” getting thousands of people around the country to leave negative Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews for local bank branches with messages like “JP Morgan Chase is the world’s largest funder of fossil fuels!”
Friends of the Earth also sent over 10,000 text messages to their supporters getting them to call into Chase to demand the bank stop investing in fossil fuels.
Some people (including Jane Fonda and environmental leader Bill McKibben) also cut up Chase credit cards, while thousands more pledged to move their money out of all banks that were funding the climate crisis.
Those actions and others seem to be working. This week saw a number of significant developments in the fight to end the financing of fossil fuels:
- On Monday, Citigroup announced that it would stop financing oil and gas development in the Arctic, end all direct funding for new coal mines and coal-fired power plants, and set a timeline for ending the financing of coal companies. (Members of Stop the Money Pipeline criticized the policy for railing to rule out funding for fracking or tar sands). On Thursday, Morgan Stanley also announced a new Arctic exclusion policy.
- Also on Monday, the New York City Council introduced a resolution to formally demand that the banks, asset managers and insurance companies with which the city government does business divest from oil, gas and coal.
- On Tuesday, Oxford University announced that it would completely divest from fossil fuels. On Wednesday, American University announced that it had fully divested, as well.
- On Wednesday, citing a lack of climate competency and impartiality, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer launched an effort to unseat former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond from the board of directors of JP Morgan Chase. Shortly thereafter New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Pennsylvania State Treasurer Joe Torsella announced that they would be joining the effort. Combined the pension systems hold more than $1 billion of JP Morgan stock.
Stop the Money Pipeline is pledging to keep up its activism and protests through the upcoming series of shareholder meetings this May and beyond.
Much like the first Earth Day fifty years ago, Thursday also took the form of a mass teach-in. Over the course of the livestream, people across the country heard from activists, Indigenous leaders, celebrities, and Members of Congress about how they could be a part of the growing movement to end the financing of fossil fuels and deforestation.
Representatives of the Gwich’in Steering Committee talked about how they successfully pressured Goldman Sachs and other major Wall Street banks to back away from funding drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Students from Boston College, Penn, American University, Columbia-Barnard, and Stanford talked about how they’re pressuring their boards of trustees to divest from fossil fuels.
A member of the Sarayaku Indigenous community in the Ecuadorian Amazon talked about how asset managers like BlackRock and big banks like JP Morgan Chase and Citi are funding rainforest destruction in their community.
Senators Jeff Merkley and Ed Markey and Representative Rashida Tlaib joined a Digital Town Hall to answer questions about what they’re doing to prevent bailout money from going to big polluters instead of people in need.
“The fossil fuel industry has gotten massive tax breaks from the public for over 100 years — but when we suggest investing in renewables, we’re dismissed as crazy. We need a Green New Deal to create millions of good jobs,” said Senator Ed Markey.
“It’s hard being in Congress & not taking fossil fuel or corporate money — but it’s worth it. We have to break the cycle of dirty money to stand up to Big Oil & build public trust,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib.
Youth and elders launched the Coalition for Climate-Safe Pensions to make sure the trillions of dollars managed by public pension funds in North America exit fossil fuels and support a just, clean future for us all.
There was an interfaith prayer service, a virtual choir performance, videos from the frontlines of fossil fuel fights across the United States, and much, much more. (For a complete list of events click here).
The action doesn’t stop here. Over the coming weeks, Stop the Money Pipeline and its over 90 coalition partners will be engaging the thousands of new people who joined the campaign today to keep turning up the heat on Wall Street, the Trump Administration, and Congress to make sure that money gets to people in need, not into the pocketbooks of fossil fuel billionaires.
“Even though we can’t take to the streets to march and rally together, that won’t stop us from keeping the pressure up on the financial institutions that are helping to drive the climate crisis. It’s more important than ever to hold Wall Street and push them to support our communities, not corporate polluters,” said Sierra Club campaign representative Ben Cushing.
“Insurance companies like Liberty Mutual should stop risking our future and stop insuring and investing in dangerous fossil fuel projects,” said Corey Troiani, Clean Economy Director with Texas Campaign for the Environment.
“With our survival at stake, every day must be Earth Day. Financial institutions that are bankrolling the climate crisis must transition to financing a clean energy economy today,” said Fran Teplitz, Executive Co-Director of Green America.
“Despite recent sustainability commitments from many Wall St firms, their money trail tells a different story: financial giants like BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase have provided billions of dollars for oil extraction in the western Amazon, not to mention fossil fuel extraction around the world. We might not be outside the doors of these financial giants today, but we will not let up the pressure on them to stop financing the industries most responsible for climate destruction and indigenous rights violations,” said Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director at Amazon Watch.
“Student fossil fuel divestment organizers are forging a new path for the climate movement. We are pushing the movement to recognize colonial capitalism as the root of climate justice. Young folks are especially affected by the failures of capitalism like exploitative tuition, downward economic mobility, and the destruction of their futures’ for profit. Students are taking action on Earth Day to divest from the capitalist, extractive economy and reinvest in a cooperative, regenerative economy,” said Gracie Brett, Campus Organizer at Divest Ed.
“The billions Chase Bank is using to support the fossil fuel industry must be shifted to funding a just transition to clean energy–and we are telling them so. A coalition of Portland activist organizations, ST$P-PDX, is staging a Digital Chase Bank Takeover where thousands of reviews will highlight Chase Bank’s destruction of our climate and communities through comments on sites like Yelp, facebook and Google Maps and a massive social media campaign. Join us at the #DigitalChaseTakeover,” said Jenifer Schramm, a Team Lead with 350PDX.
“Join Earth Day–Divest to inspire global financiers to salvage their reputations and recoveries by accelerating toward healthy and sustainable portfolios. As JP Morgan’s internal January Special Report – Risky business: the climate and the macroeconomy stated, ‘a delayed policy response opens us up to potentially catastrophic outcomes, which might be impossible to reverse.’ On April 23rd, we’re staging an intervention to help those who cannot seem to help themselves: big banks, insurance companies, asset managers, and institutional investors,” said Cheryl Barnds.
“On this Earth Day 2020, we call for an immediate end to fossil fuel financing. Beneficial State Foundation proudly joins Stop the Money Pipeline to cut the ties between the fossil fuel industry and the largest banks. Banks have an enormous opportunity to be a part of a just transition to a clean energy economy. And we all deserve a new way of banking that redirects the flow of our deposits toward a just, inclusive, and regenerative future,” said Emma Guttman-Slater, Policy Advocacy & Field Building Director at Beneficial State Foundation
“Millions of lives are on the line, yet financial institutions and governments continue to pour billions into the dying fossil fuel industry, which is driving the destruction of the climate, deforestation, and further harms to global public health. What is urgently needed is immediate divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and investment in our communities, renewable energy and a regenerative economy — anything short of this is a disaster for our collective future. People and planet over corporate profits!” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN)
“They’re committing genocide and convincing everybody else that it’s suicide. We can’t let them get away with that narrative. We can’t let them get away with that lie,” said Climate Justice essayist and Columbia University writer-in-residence Mary Heglar.
“Wall Street’s investments in the fossil fuel industry have hollowed out our communities, weakened our public establishments, and fueled global instability by perpetuating the climate crisis. Many Americans are suffering economically right now because our financial institutions have both created and funded a system that works for declining industries and their billionaires, while making life even more difficult for the 99 percent. This year, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we are coming together to say enough is enough: no more funding climate disaster,” said Caroline Henderson, Senior Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace USA.
“We celebrate the 50-year anniversary of Earth Day and the winding down of the fossil fuel era by calling for divestment from fossil fuel companies and projects that are both risky and unethical investments. It’s time to defund the climate crisis and the fracking, refineries and infrastructure projects that are poisoning our families, threatening our lives with increased pollution making us more vulnerable to the current pandemic, and increasing the likelihood of future tragedies,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado.
“The fossil fuel industry is a financial house of cards hellbent on destroying the climate and wrecking communities, as the COVID-19 crisis has made clear. Earth Day Live is the perfect opportunity to mobilize millions and shine a spotlight on the banks and insurers driving the climate crisis and financing deadly fossil fuel infrastructure that’s harming communities,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International.
“Black, Indigenous, and other fenceline communities already suffering respiratory illness and other health impacts of living with fossil fuel pollution face a disproportionate burden from COVID-19. These communities and the furloughed and laid off workers are the ones who need a bailout – not fossil fuel CEOs looking to take advantage of a public health crisis while continuing to pollute with impunity and accelerate climate disaster. Financial institutions that bankroll the fossil fuel industry have a responsibility to ensure companies don’t use this crisis to exacerbate another,” said Kathy Mulvey, fossil fuel accountability campaign director, Union of Concerned Scientists.
350.org North America Director Tamara Toles O’Laughlin said, “As the pandemic has exposed, this moment is a choice between short-term profits or mutually beneficial investments in our communities. Oil has crashed and accelerated a need for a just transition to end risky pipelines and invest in renewables. Short term profits mean dirty air and higher asthma rates — more death and destruction. As long as insurers and asset managers play their part and stand against us; we are betting against ourselves. We are rising up and uniting in our power as well until we win the livable climate we deserve in a society that uplifts people over polluters. Join us in supporting the movement in taking over the internet as a part Earth Day Live on April 23. The status quo has rigged our system, questions why we can’t pay for a Green New Deal, and enables corporate welfare to bailout industries crisis after crisis. This Earth Day we’re game to expose the system and take virtual action.”
“Half a century after the first Earth Day the environmental movement can claim many successes, but we are still a very long way from turning around the interlinked triple crises of climate chaos, biodiversity loss and environmental injustice. By focusing on massive financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock and Liberty Mutual, the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition is targeting some of those who are most responsible for worsening these crises and who have the most influence over the fossil fuel industry and the companies that are destroying the world’s forests,” said Patrick McCully, Climate and Energy Program Director at Rainforest Action Network.
“In the middle of a global health crisis, individuals, communities, and industries should be focused on protecting the public health. Instead, these bank-funded fossil fuel projects continue, threatening to spread the virus through crowded construction camps and into communities. It seems Wall Street Banks are more willing to commit financial manslaughter than do what’s right in a time of crisis,” said Liz Butler, Organizing and Strategic Alliances Vice President at Friends of the Earth U.S.
“At a time when workers are struggling to put food on the table, this is the last time public employees — teachers, nurses, police and firefighters — should be worrying about their pensions. But the stubborn refusal of pension trustees to divest from the polluting industries of the past are already costing workers billions of dollars. We’ve known that the fossil fuel industry is bad for the planet, but it’s also burning a hole in the nest-eggs of workers worldwide. Today, campaigners in the US and Canada are joining forces in a new Coalition for Climate-Safe Pensions, demanding that their retirement savings stay safe and secure in an uncertain future.” Clara Vondrich, Director of the Coalition for Climate-Safe Pensions.