bank protests

Protesters demonstrate outside Bank of America's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina on April 24, 2023.

(Photo: The Sunrise Project)

'This Must Stop,' Say Climate Activists Targeting US Banks' Fossil Fuel Financing

"Our aim is to disrupt the banks as much as we can today to give them a glimpse of the destruction people are experiencing because of climate change," said one organizer.

Demanding an end to fossil fuel financing amid a worsening planetary emergency, climate and environmental justice campaigners on Monday staged coordinated protests in three cities against a trio of the biggest U.S. banks a day ahead of their annual shareholder meetings.

Each of the demonstrations—which targeted the Charlotte, New York, and San Francisco headquarters of Bank of America, Citibank, and Wells Fargo, respectively—featured a delegation from Louisiana and Texas communities adversely affected by liquefied natural gas projects financed by the three banks.

In Charlotte, protesters held a "die-in" in memory of people who have perished in famines, fires, and floods linked to climate change. New York activists held an overnight sit-in, while in San Francisco demonstrators blocked the building's entrance and staged a street theater performance.

"Our aim is to disrupt the banks as much as we can today to give them a glimpse of the destruction people are experiencing because of climate change," explained Alice Hu of New York Communities for Change, which organized the Citibank sit-in. "Banks like Citi like to say verbally that they are funding the energy transition but in reality it's business as usual: pumping money into harmful emissions that are linked to extreme weather events."

The three banks' annual shareholder meetings will be held virtually on Tuesday. Shareholder activists plan to introduce several resolutions demanding the banks avoid any future fossil fuel financing.

A report published earlier this month by a coalition of green groups revealed that JPMorgan Chase ($434.2 billion), Citibank ($332.9 billion), Wells Fargo ($318.2 billion), and Bank of America ($281.2 billion) have been the world's biggest fossil fuel financiers since the Paris climate agreement took effect in 2016. Those four banks alone accounted for 28% of all identified fossil fuel financing in 2022, according to the report.

"As people of faith and spirit, we call on banks to stop funding projects that are financially unfeasible and morally wrong," said Rev. Amy Brooks Paradise of GreenFaith, which organized the Charlotte protest.

"Oil pipeline projects displace people, destroy water, Earth, and air, and contribute to planet-wide suffering," she continued. "It's been two years since banks like Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America made claims of wanting to help address the climate crisis. While some banks are making changes with one hand, with the other they continue funding new and expanding current fossil fuel projects, and are still backing oil, gas, and coal developers."

"Quite simply, the world is rapidly running out of time," Brooks Paradise added. "We need our banks to act swiftly and with integrity to stop all funding that fuels climate disasters."

Roishetta Ozane, founder of the environmental justice group Vessel Project of Louisiana, said at the New York protest: "In southwest Louisiana, we feel like we are the dumping ground for harmful methane gas and chemical projects. We have been made into a sacrifice."

"I have six kids and I worry constantly about their futures knowing what is being pumped into the air and knowing how climate change is already affecting our community through flooding," Ozane added. "Bank of America, Citi, and Wells Fargo are funding this crisis and this must stop."

Monday's demonstrations follow last month's protest by Third Act, a group of U.S. elders demanding that banks "stop funding climate chaos."

Across the Atlantic on Monday, The Big One, a major climate protest that featured an Earth Day die-in outside the U.K. Parliament, wrapped up with a vow by lead organizer Extinction Rebellion to return to mass civil disobedience due to the government's failure to commit to ending the fossil fuel era.

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