Major U.S. banks fund climate crisis: Is your bank one of them?

‘Dirty Fuel’ banks include – JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo

MAJOR FINDING:  U.S. and Canadian major banks expanded financial backing of the “extreme fossil fuel energy” in 2017!

What WE CAN DO!  We all need to “demand banks end financing for extreme fossil fuels, and all expansion as well as ensuring that financing does not contribute to human rights violations.”

Action List to divest of these banks and actions all can take to protest financial backing of the fossil fuel industry is after the summary

Summary & actions list by Sue Queen with contributions by Scott Lake and Karen Bentrup, PDA Stop Global Warming Action Team


The study entitled “Banking on Climate Change: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2018” provided the basis of a March 28, 2018 Common Dreams article by Julia Conley, “Going Backward in Trump Era, Big Bank Investment in World’s Dirtiest Energy Projects Surged in 2017.” The “Banking on Climate Change” study was compiled by the Rainforest Action Network, Banktrack, Sierra Club, OilChange International, Indigenous Environmental Network, Network and Honor the Earth organizations. Some key points are highlighted below, followed by links to both references.

A successful, active fossil fuel industry relies upon funding of the oil companies that extract the fuel and the big banks that finance their operations. In order to limit production of dirty fuels that contribute to global warming, a critical element is that banks must decrease and eventually withhold their financing of oil companies. Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International (one of the groups behind the study) stated “Every single dollar that these banks provide for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is a dollar going to increase the climate crisis.”  Major banks have the power to play a vital role in limiting dirty energy production and facilitating the conversion to clean energy.

The past year (2017) showed a disturbing increase in financing of sectors of dirty energy production, contributed to mainly by the U.S. and Canada.  Oil sector funding by Europe, China, Japan, Australia and even Canada either remained relatively constant or was on a downward trend from 2015-2016 in all nations evaluated, except for the United States.

Each major bank evaluated was graded based on their contributions to the top 30 companies in each “extreme fossil fuel” subsector over the past three years (2015-2017). The term extreme fossil fuels refers to: “extreme oil” (tar sands, Arctic and ultra-deepwater oil), liquefied natural gas export, coal mining and coal power. Of these, tar sands constitute the dirtiest energy fuel.

The banks were also graded on the extent to which they adhered to the “Equator Principles,” which were established to ensure banks respected and protected human rights. Many oil companies and the banks that fund them have disregarded the impact of building pipelines used to transport their extracted materials on numerous communities, including sacred sites of indigenous peoples.

Highlights include:

  • Canada and the U.S. increased their dirty energy funding while other nations (China, Europe, Japan and Australia) decreased or maintained their dirty energy funding in 2017.
  • The major U.S. Banks (of 36 banks worldwide) which financed extreme fossil fuel companies were, in order of billions financed with ranking in parentheses: JPMorgan Chase (3), Citigroup (9), Bank of America (10), Morgan Stanley (13), Goldman Sachs (16) Wells Fargo (24).
  • Institutions including JP Morgan ChaseTD Bank (Toronto-Dominion), and Bank of America increased their funding of dirty energy by 11% from 2016 to 2017, flouting the Paris Climate Agreement (bolding added).
  • JP Morgan Chase was the 2nd largest financial contributor to extreme fossil fuel financing in 2017, the majority of which funded tar sands projects, and was the 2nd worst bank in the world regarding extreme fossil fuel financing in 2017
  • Examples of increased financing over the past three years include:
    • Tar sands (dirtiest energy source): financing grew 111% from 2016-2017, financing totaled $98 billion.  Major contributors were Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, JP Morgan Chase.
    • Financing in 2017 of extreme oil (tar sands, Arctic, ultra-deepwater oil) totaled $52 billion, led by JPMorgan Chase, HSBC (British), and Bank of America.
    • Financing in 2017 of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export: totaled $45 billion, financed by Morgan Stanley, Societe Generale, Mitsubishi Financial Group.
    • Coal mining and coal power: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo
  • Coal financing worldwide is increasing. Over half of the financing was covered by seven Chinese and Japanese banks over the past three years. At the same time, however, 18 western banks increased their financing for coal power in 2017 including JPMorgan Chase and Citibank.
  • The 6 U.S. banks received an average grade of D- to C+ among the fossil fuel sectors (scale F-A) for “Policy Grades,” bank policies on finance restrictions regarding the fossil fuel industry.


  • The World Bank announced at the 2017 One Planet Summit in Paris that it won’t finance further oil and gas extraction after 2019.
  • Many countries further reduced their financing of extreme fossil fuels between 2015 and 2017.
  • The University of Edinburgh endowment divested from all fossil fuels.
  • The State of New York began divesting pension funds from coal and range of fossil fuel companies.
  • Large scale battery storage for wind and solar plants in the U.S. now seems feasible, based on success of South Australia in later, 2017.
  • A recent positive note it that HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, has announced that it will pull out of “new coal, tar sands, and offshore arctic drilling projects.” Common Dreams, April 20, 2018, Andrea Germanos.

ACTIONS that each of us can take to DEFUND DIRTY FUEL and INCREASE 100% RENEWABLE!

Do as many of these key recommendations as you can!

  1. Move your money if your banking or charge card companies are among the culprit banks funding or investing in oil, gas, coal, nuclear. (See website list below to help with divestment.)
  2. Alert your family and friends to the issue of growing US bank investments in dirty fossil fuels and encourage them to divest.
  3. Divest of any personal financial investments that directly or indirectly invest in the culprit banks or oil, gas, tar sands, coal, or nuclear companies; remember mutual funds often invest in more than one sector.
  4. Divest from the tar sands producers and pipeline companies.
  5. Check your retirement funds to see if you are invested in the above, and tell them you want those removed from their portfolio (via emails to the company, calling the company, petitions at workplace).
  6. Engage with your bank to reduce climate, human rights, deforestation, and reputational risks by instituting an A-range tar sands policy, and exercise voting rights and file shareholder resolutions in support of this aim.
  7. Encourage your bank to invest in clean energy sectors, including business that directly makes products for clean energy companies or support clean energy.
  8. Ask that banks align investment policies with the objectives of the Paris Climate Accord, UNDRIP, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  9. Seek robust disclosure of climate, human rights, and deforestation risks, including all financed emissions from fossil fuels and land use, consistent with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, GHG Protocol, and Global Reporting Initiative guidelines.
  10. Sign petitions about and send emails to the culprit banks. Tell them why you are switching.  You can also tell a bank that you will strongly encourage your friends who bank with them to find a bank that supports clean energy. (See DAPL link below for suggested letter.)

Websites to help you divest from banks funding dirty fossil fuels:

 Related websites:

Links to articles:

  • Common Dreams, March 28, 2018, Going Backward in the Trump Era, Big Bank Investment in World’s Dirtiest Energy Projects Surged in 2017Click here to view the article.


You can download a copy of this article here and a copy of the program handout here.