Lone protester holds sign: "Citi: Stop Funding Fossil Fuels"

Environmental activist protest outside CitiBank Headquarters in New York City on April 25, 2023, calling for an end to fossil fuel financing.

(Photo by Leonardo Munoz / AFP via Getty Images)

The World's Largest Funder of Fossil Fuel Expansion

Here’s why we will be using our bodies to shut down Citibank’s global headquarters over and over again, this summer.

This summer, along with dozens of others, I’ll be helping to run the Summer of Heat on Wall Street, a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience against the banks, investors, and insurance companies financing fossil fuel expansion.

As we have written about here already, our plan is simple: using our bodies, we will continually blockade the New York headquarters of the Wall Street giants bankrolling coal, oil, and gas expansion; week after week, we will disrupt the companies disrupting our climate and our planet.

We’re targeting several companies―including the insurance company, Chubb, and the private equity group, KKR―but our number one target will be Citigroup. Here’s why.

Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, Citi has provided $204.46 billion in financing to the company's most rapidly developing new coal, oil, and gas fields. Remarkably, Citi has provided more money to those oil and gas companies than even JPMorgan Chase―the bank that climate activists like to call the “Doomsday Bank.”

To be clear, I’m talking here only about the financing Citi has provided for companies developing new oil and gas reserves, not merely investing in infrastructure to keep the oil pumping from existing reserves. When we take into account financing to all fossil fuel companies, Citi has provided a little shy of $400 billion to coal, oil, and gas companies since 2015. But focusing on expansion is important.

Numerous climate experts, from the International Energy Agency to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have made it clear that to stave off the worst of climate catastrophe, there must be no investment in new fossil fuel expansion. But last year alone, Citibank provided $14.6 billion to the companies most rapidly expanding their coal, oil, and gas operations.

Citibank’s financing of fossil fuel expansion not only drives climate chaos, it also results in environmental racism. To give just one example, 70% of the air pollution generated by ExxonMobil is dumped on communities of color, contributing to the higher levels of heart disease, strokes, cancer, and other illnesses that are widely associated with living near oil and gas infrastructure.

Citibank’s top fossil fuel client is ExxonMobil. Yet when asked by Congress if she knew what environmental racism was, Citi CEO Jane Fraser replied: “Only vaguely.”

Not content with merely financing fossil fuels, Citi also works to block climate action both from its own investors and the U.S. government.

CEO Jane Fraser is chair of a group called the Financial Services Forum and a board member of the Bank Policy Institute, groups that have fought tooth and nail to weaken climate-financial regulation advanced by the Biden Administration. Citi also donates to several high-profile politicians who work against action on climate, including Congressman Andy Barr who has led the charge in a series of fossil fuel-backed, right-wing attacks designed to prevent the financial industry from taking action on climate.

For the past three years, Citi has faced a shareholder resolution from investors calling for a report on how the bank ensures that the oil, gas, and mining companies it finances respect Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Yet, in spite of Ms. Fraser’s previous claims in 2020 that Citi was committed to being ”an anti-racist institution,” Citi has fought the resolution each year, urging investors to vote against it, even as they remain one of the world’s largest funders of oil and gas in the Amazon rainforest.

Besides its role in the climate crisis and environmental racism, there are plenty other reasons to be angry at Citibank, too. In the early 20th century, Citi actively lobbied the US government to invade and occupy Haiti, which it promptly did, resulting in decades of bloodshed and misery for Haitians. A century later, Citi did as much as any bank to cause the financial crisis of 2008, which led to nearly 3.8 million Americans losing their homes; no bank received a larger bailout from the government than Citi.

And then there’s the fact that Citi is the foreign bank with the largest presence in Israel and a major financier of weapons manufacturers that are currently providing Israel with fighter jets and missiles being used to massacre Palestinians.

All of this is why Citibank is our number one target this summer.

To kick off the campaign, we will disrupt and shut down Citibank’s headquarters in Manhattan every day, all week long. We start on Monday, June 10th. We hope that you join us.

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