Protesters picket outside a Chase Bank branch in November 2019.

Protesters picket outside a Chase Bank branch in November 2019.

(Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Big Banks Have Funded Climate Crisis With Nearly $7 Trillion Since Paris Agreement

"Banks that profit from climate chaos invent new greenwash every year, but we have the receipts that show how much money they put into fossil fuels," said one report author.

The world's 60 biggest banks funded fossil fuels to the tune of $6.9 trillion in the eight years following the Paris agreement.

That's the conclusion of the 15th annual Banking on Climate Chaos report, which was published Monday and also found that the financial institutions lavished $705 billion on oil, gas, and coal in 2023—the hottest year on record.

"Financiers and investors of fossil fuels continue to light the flame of the climate crisis," Tom BK Goldtooth, report co-author and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement. "Paired with generations of colonialism, the fossil fuel industry and banking institutions' investment in false solutions create unlivable conditions for all living relatives and humanity on Mother Earth."

U.S. financial giants JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America topped the "dirty dozen" list of the banks that gave the most to fossil fuels since 2016, at $430.9 billion, $396.3 billion, and $333.2 billion respectively. In 2023, U.S. banks provided 30% of total fossil fuel finance, the largest share of any country. JPMorgan also topped the 2023 list at $40.88 billion, with Japanese bank Mizuho Financial overtaking the No. 2 spot with $37.04 billion, and Bank of America remaining in third place with $33.68 billion.

"The science shows that over half of fossil fuels in existing fields and mines must stay underground to limit global warming to 1.5°C, and our Big Oil Reality Check analysis finds that none of the major oil and gas companies we analyze plan to do anything even close to what is needed to hold global warming to 1.5°C," report-co-author David Tong, the global industry campaign manager at Oil Change International, said in a statement. "By injecting a staggering $70[5] billion into fossil fuel financing in 2023 alone, the world's largest banks fund the climate chaos fossil fuel companies wreck on communities worldwide."

The report also tracks how much the financial institutions spent on companies that had fossil fuel expansion plans, according to the Global Oil and Gas Exit List and the Global Coal Exit List. The banks spent $3.3 trillion since 2016 and $347.5 billion in 2023 alone on these companies, or nearly half of total expenditures. Report co-author April Merleaux, research and policy manager at Rainforest Action Network, called the 2023 expansion finance figure "dangerous and inconsistent with real climate commitments."

Overall, Citibank has spent the most on fossil fuel expansion since 2016 at $204 billion, while JPMorgan was the top funder of expansion in 2023 with $19.3 billion.

"As this report is worth nothing if it doesn't turn into action, we call on the banks to finally become fossil free banks, and on the wider climate justice movement to use this data to mobilize for a fossil free banking world."

The researchers also looked at what fossil fuel companies and activities the banks were financing. All told, they considered funding to 4,228 companies. Clients with major expansion plans in 2023 included the pipeline companies Enbridge, TC Energy Corp, and Sempra as well as NextDecade Corp and Rio Grande Valley LNG, which are developing new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export capacity.

Fossil fuel financing did decrease in 2023, down from $778.7 billion in 2022.

"The trend of decreased financing from traditional banks to fossil fuel companies is good news, tempered by the reality that financing for fossil fuel expansion should be zero," the report authors wrote. "But there is little evidence that the decline is driven by voluntary commitments by the banks, especially given the policy rollbacks among major banks."

Indeed, in 2023, Bank of America rolled back commitments to not fund Arctic drilling, thermal coal, or coal-fired plants. Instead, the report authors suggested the downturn in finance was due to external economic and geopolitical factors.

"Unless banks take action to rule out finance for such clients, the decline may not be permanent," they warned.

When it came to the funding of individual high-risk fossil fuel activities, funding for overall expansion, fracking, tar sands, coal- and gas-power plants, and Amazon, Arctic, and deepwater oil and gas all declined. At the same time, funding for metallurgical coal, coal mining, and methane LNG all increased, with LNG funding rising from $116 billion in 2022 to $121 billion in 2023.

"In a year with record climate impacts, I am shocked to see financing for any category of fossil fuels increase. And yet in 2023 this report shows a big increase in financing to companies developing methane gas terminals and related infrastructure," Merleaux said. "Banks should be listening to those on the frontlines and stepping away from these projects."

This year the report—which is a collaboration between Rainforest Action Network; BankTrack; the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development; Indigenous Environmental Network; Oil Change International; Reclaim Finance; Sierra Club; and Urgewald— features updated methodology that primary sources revealing the role of banks in corporate financial deals. The banks were given a chance to review the data and respond.

"Wall Street's top concern is its profit. Our top concerns are the climate and human rights. Banks that profit from climate chaos invent new greenwash every year, but we have the receipts that show how much money they put into fossil fuels," Merleaux said. "Our new methodology uncovers previously unreported details on banks' support for fossil fuels and gives campaigners new tools to hold them accountable."

Accountability is the report's main goal, according to co-author Diogo Silva, who leads the banks and climate campaign at BankTrack.

"As this report is worth nothing if it doesn't turn into action, we call on the banks to finally become fossil free banks, and on the wider climate justice movement to use this data to mobilize for a fossil free banking world," Silva said. "Later might just be too late. Fossil banks, no thanks!"

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