As the global, student-led, climate strike goes on today, we reflect on the ways irresponsible banking can contribute to global warming.
Today, youth across the world walked out of their classes and into the streets to protest the way our global leaders are handling the threat of climate change. Although the movement started with youth and students, the invitation to protest was extended to all generations, and has led to many different organizations organizing their own strikes, such as a large group of striking workers from Amazon who have been disappointed in the company’s reluctance to respond to the threat of climate change.
The general goal of the movement is to express the urgency many of us are feeling about the issue of climate change to our governments, businesses and institutions. The focus on institutional change, rather than individual action and lifestyle changes, is a different tone than previous environmental movements, but a necessary change, as one of the most repeated statistics about the topic of climate change is that 70% of the world’s CO2 emissions are from the 100 largest companies globally. This is of particular urgency to students because they’re the ones who will have to deal with the consequence of climate change long after those who run those 100 companies.
While individual changes are not enough to help the situation considering the progression of global warming at this point, individual actions can motivate our institutions to follow suit. And you may be unaware whether the institution you’ve been banking with has also been supporting and working with those top 100 companies that are responsible for most our CO2 emissions. A lot of the larger banks, especially the mega banks, loan to and are invested in fossil-fuel-related companies. For example, last year, while stock prices for ExxonMobil dropped, Bank of America encouraged people to invest, even while ExxonMobil is notorious for their CO2 emissions.
While there are relatively few banks in the country which actively invest in sustainable energy or other green industries, this may be one of the circumstances where it’s essential to avoid doing something: avoid the mega banks. If you’re still banking with a mega bank, a portion of your deposits are being used to fund carbon-hog industries which actively harm our ozone layer and heat the planet. By moving your money to your local Better Banking Option, you let these banks know that investing in these kinds of industries in unacceptable. Additionally, any community banking institution is “greener” than your average bank, especially those that invest in small farms and small businesses.
When we think about climate change, we must remember that those that are being affected today are those who are already struggling, for example, poor individuals who are unable to obtain transportation to escape from hurricanes and other natural disasters. By choosing Better Banking Options, we not only bring capital to areas and households most likely to be affected by climate change, we also take money away from companies who use it to further degrade our environment. Fighting for measures to be taken against climate change can be done in many different ways, and considering the urgency of the issue, we should use every tool at our disposal.