The Climate Movement Is Going After Wall Street
A new effort, Stop the Money Pipeline, aims to end the financing of fossil fuels
by Katie Nelson
January 9, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The climate movement has a new target: Wall Street.
A coalition of some of the nation’s leading climate, youth, and Indigenous organizations will launch a major new mobilization on Friday, Stop the Money Pipeline, that will pressure banks, insurance companies and asset managers to stop financing fossil fuels and deforestation and start respecting human rights and Indigenous sovereignty.
The campaign will kick off with a finance focused “Fire Drill Friday” protest in D.C. featuring Indigenous leaders like Tara Houska and Eriel Deranger, celebrity activists Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Joaquin Phoenix, and leading activists like Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Annie Leonard. The Finance Fire Drill will start with a rally at the Capitol before an action at an unspecified target that signifies the financial industry.
The financial industry is fueling the climate emergency with every dollar it invests in fossil fuels. Even as the world’s leading scientists issue dire warnings about the need to stop the use of gas, oil, and coal, Wall Street continues to drive the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. Banks provide the loans, investors the capital, and insurance companies the insurance.
Since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the leading global banks have pumped $1.9 trillion into new fossil fuel development, none of which is compliant with a 1.5ºC pathway. The financial industry’s support is also essential to the industry’s day-to-day operations: without the preferential treatment Wall Street gives to coal, oil and gas companies, the industry would fall apart.
A chorus of high profile voices — including scientists, the United Nations, European central banks, and the IMF — have all sounded the alarm about the role of the finance industry in driving climate destruction, but so far their calls for action have fallen on deaf ears. Next year’s United Nations Climate Talks will focus on the role of finance, providing a unique opportunity this year to pressure the sector to act.
The Stop the Money Pipeline mobilization will bring together a number of existing campaigns targeting the worst offenders in each part of the financial sector.
For banks, activists have been targeting JP Morgan Chase, the largest private funder of fossil fuels in the world. Since the Paris Agreement, Chase has dumped more than $196 billion into new fossil fuel projects. The top target in insurance is Liberty Mutual, which is a top global insurer of coal, oil and gas. For asset managers, activists are targeting BlackRock, the world’s largest investment fund with over $7 trillion under management. The mobilization will also build off ongoing fossil fuel divestment efforts that are focused on pension funds, university endowments, and other private funds.
Over the coming months, Stop the Money Pipeline aims to turn up the heat on all of these targets, while also demanding that the government step in to regulate the risk fossil fuel investments are posing to our climate communities. On January 16, activists in DC will be targeting Wells Fargo for their fossil fuel finance and human rights violations as part of the Women’s March national day of action. On February 13, there will be an intergenerational day of divestment action with actions on college campuses and targeting state pension funds urging divestment from fossil fuels. Action will continue to escalate into this spring, when groups are discussing a major mobilization against the finance industry writ large.
Organizations involved in the Stop the Money Pipeline mobilization include Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Greenpeace USA, Sunrise Project, Future Coalition, Divest Ed, Divest-Invest, Native Movement, Giniw Collective, Transition US, 350.org, Oil Change International, 350 Seattle, Center for International Environmental Law, Union of Concerned Scientists, Majority Action, Earth Rights International, The YEARS Project, and more.
“The times we’re in call for historic redirection of capital away from fossil fuels, and towards the economy of the future. As we launch this campaign, the world is literally on fire. The institutions of Wall Street, still far behind their global peers, need to get in step with swift climate action. The inescapable reality of climate change demands bold action now,” said Ruth Breech, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.
“With Australia burning and Jakarta underwater, the science is clear that every new investment in fossil fuels is committing the world to climate chaos and human rights violations on a massive scale. Fossil fuel producers are already being held accountable in courtrooms around the world. The financial sector should take note, take action or take cover,” said Carroll Muffett, President at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
“Banks around the globe are betting against our future with every dollar they invest in fossil fuels. We know we need to stop the expansion of the fossil fuel industry if we want to have any chance of combating the climate crisis, but we can’t begin to make serious headway until financial institutions like banks, asset managers, and pension funds stop funding this destructive oil and gas industry. Money is the oxygen on which the climate crisis burns — and we need everyone to care where their money is being spent,” said Janet Redman, Climate Campaign Director at Greenpeace USA.
“Fossil fuel capitalists, and their political enablers, have put us on a first-name basis with climate chaos. As we enter the decade of climate, it’s time to make them pay. Our communities can no longer foot the bill. Now is the time to demand redress of harms, and resources to pay for care and repair,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, 350.org North America Director.
“The world has two power centers, political and financial. And we have to go after both if we have any hope of slowing down the pace of global heating,” said Bill McKibben, 350.org co-founder.
“The world is ablaze, and our biggest banks are pouring fuel on the fire. Research shows we can’t afford a single new piece of fossil fuel infrastructure, but Wall Street has missed the memo. It’s time to hold these arsonists accountable and stop the deadly money pipeline fueling climate devastation,” said Collin Rees, Senior Campaigner at Oil Change International.
“My family lost everything to superstorm Sandy. After Sandy, hurricane Maria devastated my family in Puerto Rico. The climate crisis is here and now and will get far, far worse if Wall Street doesn’t stop pouring money into climate destruction. It’s time to stop the money pipeline!” said Rachel Rivera, a member of New York Communities for Change.
“Our government won’t move on climate so we have to move our money. The fossil fuel industry can’t survive without its friends on Wall Street. Without loans, insurance and investment, Big Oil dries up. Money talks, and we can walk. Wall Street caused the financial crash. We won’t let it cause the climate crash,” said Clara Vondrich, Divest-Invest Director.
“Many of us feel there’s little we can do to fight the oil, coal and gas companies. Well, here’s something that we can do. We can take our money out of these dirty banks. By doing so we can take away these banks’ ability to fund more oil, coal and gas projects. It’s a targeted strike to the heart of the problem,” said Joel Bach, Executive Director, The YEARS Project.
“The international movement calling for divestment from dirty fossil fuels is only growing louder and stronger, and major financial institutions should take note,” said Lena Moffitt, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “It’s time for them to stop pouring money into the projects that are driving the climate crisis and commit to investing in a future that benefits our communities, our economies, our health, and our planet.”
“The brutal murders of forest guardians in the Amazon last fall are a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by indigenous people around the world as they defend their rights and the climate. We are putting Wall Street on notice: financial firms can no longer bury their heads in the sand in the interest of short-term profits; they must stop plowing money into the extractive industries that violate indigenous rights, deforest the Amazon, and destroy the global climate,” said Moira Birss, Finance Campaign Director at Amazon Watch.
“Financing fossil fuel companies and projects fuels the climate crisis. It’s time to hold banks, insurers, pension funds and other large investors accountable for their outsized role in perpetuating climate disaster and human rights violations,” said Micah Parkin, Executive Director of 350 Colorado.
“Climate chaos is already decimating the world, from worsening wildfires to widespread flooding and devastating droughts. Wall Street banks and insurance companies are fueling this crisis by pumping billions of dollars into fossil fuel projects that destroy local communities and our environment. We cannot solve the climate crisis until banks and insurance companies step up and stop financing environmental destruction. They must slash their financing for fossil fuel projects and end the abuses of frontline communities worldwide,” said Liz Butler, Vice President Organizing and Strategic Alliances of Friends of the Earth U.S.
“Money is the only language that the fossil fuel industry speaks. For decades, the industry’s game has been to pursue profit recklessly while shifting the costs onto local communities. Today, we have come together to announce that the rules of the game have changed and fossil fuel companies will be held accountable,” said EarthRights Executive Director Ka Hswa Wa.
“As the world’s largest investor in fossil fuel companies, BlackRock is effectively financing disinformation campaigns that have delayed climate action for decades. The world’s largest fossil fuel companies don’t have credible plans for keeping us in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and investors are giving a blank check to ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other oil and gas giants to continue their deceptive and destructive practices. Investors need to expect more and tolerate less from fossil fuel companies – and tell them to swiftly get on board with climate action, or get out of the way,” said Kathy Mulvey, Fossil Fuel Accountability Campaign Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Katie Nelson, Greenpeace USA, 678-644-1681, [email protected]npeace.org
Jamie Henn, 350.org, 415-601-9337, [email protected]