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At Next Week’s Shareholder Meeting, Chase Faces Two Key Climate Resolutions

WASHINGTON -

When JPMorgan Chase faces its shareholders this Tuesday, the bank will face votes on two key shareholder resolutions pushing the bank to clean up its act on climate. 

The first proposal asks the bank to align its lending practices with its public net zero commitment by ending its support for new fossil fuel development. The same resolution was filed by the Sierra Club Foundation and other investor members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) at the other major US banks, and received between 11 and 13 percent support from shareholders at Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs. Any resolution that receives at least 5 percent of the vote is eligible to be refiled next year, and anything that receives 10 percent or more is considered difficult for a company to ignore.

The second resolution, also filed by the Sierra Club Foundation, requests that Chase issue a report that sets absolute targets for reducing its financed greenhouse gas emissions. Chase has set 2030 emissions “intensity” targets for its financing of oil and gas, electric power, and auto manufacturing, but has not set any targets for reducing its absolute financed emissions. A reduction in emissions intensity is not incompatible with an overall increase in emissions. Other big banks like Citi and Wells Fargo have set absolute emissions targets for their financing of the oil and gas sector. 

At these meetings, all eyes have been on the world’s largest asset managers — including BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, and Fidelity — which are by far the largest shareholders of the big banks, and are therefore uniquely positioned to make a huge impact on these important votes. These asset managers themselves have made net-zero commitments and have pledged to use their shareholder power to advance those goals, but did not vote in support of climate resolutions at Citi, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, or Goldman Sachs. This week, BlackRock released a new memo detailing the asset manager’s approach to voting on shareholder proposals during the 2022 proxy season and making excuses for why it would not support climate resolutions at the big banks. In their memo, BlackRock falsely characterizes these resolutions as “micromanaging,” despite the fact that they only ask banks to follow through on their own climate commitments. In fact, Chase, Citi, and Morgan Stanley requested that the SEC block shareholders from voting on these resolutions, making the same argument about supposed micromanagement, but the SEC rejected their requests.  

“Despite acknowledging the need to address its climate problem, Chase has not only failed to change its lending policies, but has also fallen behind its peers by setting weak targets that rely on accounting tricks instead of real reductions in financed emissions,” said Adele Shraiman, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign. “The science is clear that achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and averting the worst impacts of the climate crisis means stopping the expansion of fossil fuels immediately, and it’s deeply disappointing that the big asset managers like BlackRock have failed to hold their clients accountable to this science-based standard. At the very least, they should be willing to push banks like Chase to do the bare minimum, match the commitments set by their peers, and set emissions reductions targets that actually reduce emissions.” 

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The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone’s right to a healthy world.

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