Banks spend $2.7trn on fossil fuels in four years

The world’s 35 largest private banks spent more than $2.7trn financing the fossil fuel sector in the four years after the Paris Agreement was adopted, the most comprehensive study of its kind has found. 

The analysis also shows that support for the fossil fuel sector has grown every year since 2015, despite scientists warning that emissions must fall rapidly to avoid the worst of the climate crisis.

Four US banks are particularly culpable, with JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America accounting for 30% of all financing uncovered. JPMorgan Chase has provided $269bn in fossil financing since the Paris Agreement, making it the number one fossil fuel bank – exceeding the spending of second-placed Wells Fargo by a 36% margin.

Alison Kirsch, climate and energy leader researcher at Rainforest Action Network, which published the study, said the findings show “a disturbing picture”. “This makes it crystal clear that banks are failing miserably when it comes to responding to the urgency of the climate crisis,” she added.

The study also highlights banks’ poor performance on human rights via their financing of particular case study projects – from the Line 3 pipeline in North America, which is opposed by indigenous-led protests, to fracking in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta basin. These examples highlight the lack of effective human rights policies to prevent institutions from financing highly environmentally damaging projects and the companies behind them.

“As the toll of death and destruction from floods, droughts, fires and storms grows, it is unconscionable and outrageous for banks to be approving new loans and raising capital for the companies that are pushing hardest to increase carbon emissions,” Kirsch said.

Picture Credit | Getty Images


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