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Morgan Stanley Sets Net-Zero Financed Emissions Target Without Key Details

Commitment does not include interim targets or plans to phase out fossil fuels or deforestation.

WASHINGTON - Today, Morgan Stanley announced a new commitment to reach net-zero financed emissions by 2050. Morgan Stanley is the first major American bank to set such a target, though the announcement did not include details on the bank’s plan to get there. 

Last week, 60 climate and human rights groups, led by Rainforest Action Network, released a set of “Principles for Paris-Aligned Financial Institutions: Climate Impact, Fossil Fuels and Deforestation” to clarify necessary elements for financial institutions’ climate plans to align with the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

On October 1st, the Science-Based Targets Initiative will release its methodology for validating financial institutions’ climate targets. Advocates expect banks and other financial institutions to use this framework for ensuring that long-term and interim targets align with 1.5-degree climate scenarios.

Advocates recently acknowledged Morgan Stanley for becoming the first major US bank to join the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF), but the 2020 Banking on Climate Change report shows that Morgan Stanley is still one of the top dozen fossil fuel financing banks in the world, and it financed nearly $11 billion in fossil fuel expansion in 2019 alone.

Members of the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition released the following statements in response:

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“Morgan Stanley’s commitment to achieve net-zero financed emissions by 2050 is an important step forward that sets a new bar for other major US banks to follow, but also needs to be followed up with critical next steps for actually getting there,” said Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative Ben Cushing. “In order to translate this commitment into meaningful action in line with the Paris Agreement, Morgan Stanley needs to set a near-term target for emissions reductions and lay out a clear plan to phase out financing for fossil fuels immediately.”

“Morgan Stanley has just become the first major US bank to commit to net-zero emissions. We recognize the bank’s leadership on this and on agreeing to measure and disclose its climate footprint with the PCAF methodology. We look forward to Morgan Stanley quickly putting meat on this bare-bones commitment by using the Principles for Paris-Aligned Financial Institutions, and in particular by setting an interim target to halve its emissions by 2030,” said Rainforest Action Network Climate and Energy Director Paddy McCully. “This will require an immediate end to financing for fossil fuel expansion and deforestation, and a plan to phase out financing for fossil fuels overall, while respecting human rights. It also means making clear that Morgan Stanley does not intend to hit “net zero” by using shady carbon accounting schemes like forest offsets or large-scale reliance on untested technologies like carbon capture and storage. The spotlight is now on Morgan Stanley’s Wall Street peers, which have higher fossil fuel financing footprints, to make commitments that align with the Paris Agreement and the need to keep climate change under 1.5°C.”

 "This net-zero commitment is a step forward, but a destination isn't worth much without a roadmap to get there. We'd like to hear less about what banks are committed to achieving 30 years from now and more about what they're doing today to address the climate crisis unfolding all around us. As long as Morgan Stanley invests in companies like Exxon, Chevron and Shell, they're investing in disasters like wildfires, hurricanes, and floods,” said Amy Gray, co-coordinator of the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition.

“It’s long past time for US banks to acknowledge their responsibility for cutting financed emissions, and Morgan Stanley has become the first to do so with today’s net-zero announcement; however, this announcement sorely lacks details necessary for advocates and impacted communities to evaluate the effectiveness of Morgan Stanley’s plans,” said Moira Birss, Amazon Watch’s Climate & Finance Director. “Given the inadequacy of Morgan Stanley’s current sustainability policies, a commitment to net-zero will require a complete policy overall. As just one example, Morgan Stanley’s current policy specifically allows for controlled burning as a practice in agribusiness, despite the fact that controlled burning is the primary cause of the fires currently destroying the Amazon rainforest – one of the most important ecosystems for climate stability."

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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