The role Mega banks play in the advancement of climate change, and what we can do to stop them
Senate Democrats just passed the most significant climate change bill that the United States government has ever seen, “investing hundreds of billions of dollars over 10 years in tax credits for manufacturing facilities for things like electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels.” While big wins like this should be celebrated, there’s still a lot more we can all be doing to make sure this planet is conserved for generations to come.
We’re often reminded in the media that 70% of carbon emissions are made by the largest 100 companies, and people often use this fact to shift responsibility from the individual to institutional powers. While it’s true that individual actions can only make so much of a difference when it comes to climate change, people CAN organize to put pressure on institutions, helping to shift how our society treats the earth. That’s why we’re proposing that one of the best ways to send a message to these enormous corporations is to move your money out of the mega banks, and to let these banks know exactly why you’re doing leaving.
The biggest banks make the fossil fuel industry possible. A lot of the actions energy companies take to obtain fossil fuels are expensive, dangerous, and extremely destructive to the environment, and many would not be possible without funding from banks. JPMorgan Chase is by far the biggest offender, pouring $317 billion into the fossil fuel industry from 2016 through 2019. Although other mega-banks lag behind this number when it comes to fossil fuel financing, (with Citi contributing $237 billion and Wells Fargo contributing $223 billion in the same time frame) collectively, the world’s 60 biggest banks have contributed $3.8 TRILLION to extraction and infrastructure since the Paris agreement five years ago.
(If you’re unaware of the consequences that the fossil fuel industry has on our atmosphere and environment, check out this resource from the University of California, Berkley, which details some of the impact.)
So how are we supposed to have any influence on how the big banks use their assets? The thing is, it’s not even technically THEIR money. Banks function by using deposits to make loans, so essentially anyone that has account with a bank that lends to the fossil fuel industry is indirectly contributing to climate change. While sometimes it’s unavoidable to bank with mega banks, and no one should be shamed for doing what they need to do to have their banking needs met, there are still steps we can all take to put pressure on the big banks to change.
Direct actions and consistent correspondence have, in the past, influenced the big banks enough for them to change their policies. Chase committed to end funding for all coal plants, and for oil and gas projects in the Arctic, after a series of protests at their branches and the subsequent bad press. It’s clear that continuing to be outspoken about the megabanks’ actions will influence them to at least curb their fossil fuel funding.
However, the most direct thing we can do is to move our money from the mega banks and encourage others to do the same. Even if you need to bank with a national chain, try moving a portion of your deposits to another bank or credit union and transferring money to the larger bank’s account when needed. Ultimately, there are many good reasons to move your money out of the mega banks and to a Better Banking Option. When you do move your money, make sure to let the mega banks know why! If enough people do so, it will send a message to them that funding climate change is unacceptable.