Chase Climate Pledge 'Shows the Power of Relentless Environmental Activism' But 'Not Aggressive Enough'

Expanding on the momentum of the quickly growing national movement to hold JPMorgan Chase accountable for its central role in funding the global fossil fuel industry, dozens of New York residents with the organization Rise and Resist, with co-sponsor Rainforest Action Network, stormed the bank's new headquarters in central Manhattan on Nov. 20, 2019 demanding an end to its massive financing of the climate crisis. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Chase Climate Pledge 'Shows the Power of Relentless Environmental Activism' But 'Not Aggressive Enough'

"Chase must move much farther and much faster, and we will do our best to prod them in that direction!" declared Bill McKibben of 350.org.

Climate campaigners on Tuesday welcomed news that JPMorgan Chase "is pledging to use its financing weight to push clients to align with the Paris agreement and work toward global net zero-emissions by 2050" while also calling the promise from the biggest banker of fossil fuels "not agressive enough" and "far too little, too late."

"The biggest bank in the world, in the face of the biggest crisis in the world, has begun to bend to the biggest movement in the world," declared author, activist, and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. "Chase must move much farther and much faster, and we will do our best to prod them in that direction!"

Sierra Club senior campaign representative Ben Cushing similarly said in a Stop the Money Pipeline coalition statement, "The fact that the world's biggest funder of fossil fuels feels compelled to make a pledge like this is a testament to the power of the movement pushing financial institutions to clean up their act on climate."

"Chase's climate pledge is an important step forward, but it's severely insufficient to meet the scale of the climate crisis and Chase's outsized role in driving the destruction that's already underway," added Cushing. "As long as Chase is still pouring billions of dollars into the dirty energy sources that hurt our communities and push the climate past catastrophic tipping points, a vague pledge for action doesn't cut it."

Although Chase has taken some steps to reduce its contributions to the climate crisis in response to enormous pressure from campaigners and shareholders, the bank has also provided over a quarter of a trillion dollars in fossil fuel financing since the Paris accord was adopted in late 2015, according to a March analysis from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and other groups.

"It is a bad day for the long-term prospects of the fossil fuel industry when the world's biggest bank sets itself on a course that logically means it must slash its exposure to, and eventually exit, the sector," said RAN's climate and energy program director, Paddy McCully. "But vague hand-waving in the direction of Paris alignment doesn't make it so. Real Paris alignment requires common-sense steps that the bank simply has again refused to take."

McCully asserted that "if JPMorgan Chase is serious about aligning with Paris, it must immediately stop financing expansion of fossil fuels and deforestation. If the bank's clients, like ExxonMobil and Keystone XL pipeline developer TC Energy, won't stop building new wells and pipelines, JPMorgan Chase must drop those clients."

"The bank must immediately close the huge loopholes in its coal policy and commit to stop financing deforestation," he added. "Its coal exit commitment covers only companies that derive a majority of their revenue from coal mining, allowing it to continue funding companies building new coal plants, and diversified coal miners. Chase has failed to adopt a No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy, and continues to finance agri-commodity companies that are fueling tropical deforestation and forest fires."

Cushing, McCully, and McKibben's calls for bolder action from the bank were echoed by members of other organizations that make up the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition, which launched in January to pressure banks, asset managers, and insurance companies to stop funding climate destruction. Chase was one of the top three targets of the collaborative campaign.

"In recent decades JPMC has plowed billions of dollars into the very industries tearing down rainforests, trampling Indigenous rights, and destroying the climate," noted Amazon Watch's Moira Birss, adding that the bank's pledge "fails to address the full impact of its investments on communities and our climate and grants the bank three more decades to change when we need action now."

Chase's new commitments "are not goals to mitigate climate chaos" but rather "the continuation of the status quo for as long as possible," explained Dallas Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network. "Chase's announcement, though commendable in intention, utterly fails in addressing climate chaos. By promoting net-zero emissions, Chase bank is supporting false solutions that will continue to put Indigenous peoples and lands in the bullseye for attack. This is unacceptable."

"We demand that Chase bank stop funding the climate crisis today, not 30 years from now," said Kellie Berns of Earth Guardians. "We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them a livable planet... What will your children think when they find out that you were the cause of a world set to fire, rising sea levels, superstorms, and deadly heatwaves? Is this legacy you are choosing to leave behind?"

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