Hearing On Holding Megabanks Accountable Should Also Address Climate Change

On April 10, CEOs from JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and Bank of America will find themselves in front of The House Financial Services Committee, in a hearing aptly named “Holding Megabanks Accountable.”

Climate change

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A few weeks ago, the same committee grilled the newly-former Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan on everything from the false account scandal to the bank’s financing of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.

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Congress is finally catching up to these banks.

It’s been just 10 years since Wall Street recklessness created a massive recession (and received massive bailouts in return). And today, America’s megabanks are threatening our very planet by bankrolling climate change to a shocking degree. The World Health Organization estimates 250,000 additional deaths a year from climate change by 2030, and that’s a conservative estimate.

America’s biggest banks are under fire like never before, and it’s about time.

Thanks to the latest United Nations climate report, we know that we have just a little over a decade to nearly halve carbon emissions in order to get climate change under control. Meanwhile, we also know that U.S. banks are financing fossil fuels at a rate that’s flatly incompatible with the 1.5 °C target for a livable future.

According to a recent report, U.S. banks have dominated the charts as the world's worst bankers of climate change. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America are the top four funders of fossil fuels in the world, and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley join them in the top 12. Together they poured an alarming $710B into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement was adopted -- an astonishing 37% of total global bank financing. These same six banks came together just before Paris to voice their support for mitigating climate change. Their track record since then demonstrates how hollow those words were, and shows the banks’ disregard for the communities whose destruction they are financing.

While it’s refreshing to see Congress finally keeping banks in check, public pressure is the momentum that powers the change.

Just last month, JPMorgan Chase announced it would stop funding private prisons after mounting protests surged across the country.

The April 10th “Holding Megabanks Accountable” hearing will coincide with a National Day of Action on JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, where hundreds of people across the country will participate in demonstrations calling on the world's worst bankers of climate change, to similarly, stop funding fossil fuels.

Nearly a decade ago, U.S. banks were deemed “too big to fail” and got out scot-free. Not one megabank CEO was prosecuted. These megabanks were bailed out at over $29 trillion, while the crisis cost every single American approximately $70,000 according to the Federal Reserve Board. This time, the stakes are much higher. The very future of life on Earth hangs in the balance.

Wildfires, floods, and droughts have already become the new normal in this era of human-caused and bank-financed climate change. The bottom line is that today’s financing of fossil fuels is tomorrow’s climate chaos.

Emissions just from the oil, gas and coal reserves already in production would take the world well beyond 1.5° Celsius. This means that there is unequivocally no room for new fossil fuels in the world’s carbon budget.

America’s banks know full well that they must stop financing fossil fuel expansion and instate policies for rapid phase-out. Many of their European peers such as BNP Paribas and ING are already leading the pack on this, while the U.S. is painfully lagging behind.

Representative Ocasio Cortez who sits on the House Financial Services Committee recently said that “Institutions can engage in unlimited financing of fossil fuels, building unstable pipelines + reaping profits, but when the bill comes to clean up oil spills & fix damages - they can conveniently kick the can. So, who will pay for climate change?”

That is the multi-trillion dollar question.

History has shown us that without public pressure, banks will continue to profit at the expense of the working class.

Do we want to trust our planet with those who brought us the financial crisis?




About the Author

Lindsey Allen
Lindsey Allen is the Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network.