Today, at Wells Fargo’s virtual annual shareholder meeting, the bank faced questions about its massive fossil fuel financing and lack of a credible climate-aligned transition plan, but top shareholders like Vanguard and BlackRock appeared to maintain the status quo by voting to re-elect Board Chairman Charles Noski.
Last month, the 12th edition of the most comprehensive report on major banks’ fossil fuel financing, “Banking on Climate Chaos 2021
,” showed that Wells Fargo was the world’s third largest funder of fossil fuels over the five years following the adoption of the Paris Agreement, pouring $223 billion into the coal, oil and gas industries from 2016-2020. Over that period, Wells Fargo was also the world’s top funder of fracking, providing $54 billion in lending and underwriting to fracking companies. The bank also has the weakest coal exit policy among major US banks, and is a major banker of Enbridge and its Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline.
Also in March, Wells Fargo became
the last major U.S. bank to commit to achieving net zero financed emissions by 2050. However, Wells Fargo has not provided any details on how it will begin making progress toward that long-term target, and last week, failed to join
several of its peers in the launch of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance that took steps toward robust interim goal setting.
The world’s two largest asset managers, BlackRock and Vanguard, are top shareholders of nearly every major company in the world and therefore have an enormous responsibility to ensure banks are following through on their lofty climate promises and translating those into tangible climate action. Advocates and investors have argued that BlackRock and Vanguard should vote against corporate boards when a company doesn’t set ambitious decarbonization targets in line with a credible 1.5°C pathway and align their companies’ business plans and near-term actions with those targets. In line with all of this, the Sierra Club called on both BlackRock and Vanguard to vote against Wells Fargo director Chairman Charles Noski.
In response, Ben Cushing, Sierra Club financial advocacy campaign manager, issued the following statement:
“Wells Fargo has fallen significantly behind the curve when it comes to meeting the moment on climate action, and today they fall even further. It’s outrageous to watch the world’s third largest funder of fossil fuels and the top funder of fracking since the Paris Agreement continue to pay lip service to climate action while providing no credible path for meeting its vague long-term climate targets. It’s also troubling to see that top shareholders, BlackRock and Vanguard, did not live up to their rhetoric on climate action and likely voted to rubber-stamp the bank’s climate-destroying status quo. We will be monitoring other pivotal shareholder votes closely and hope to see the largest investors step up to hold corporations accountable for their climate failures.”