By FRANK CARINI
Brian Wilder has been attacking Chase Bank for several years. In 2019, as the New York-based bank was set to open its first branch in Rhode Island, at the intersection of Thayer and Angell streets in Providence, Wilder and a group of like-minded activists welcomed the JPMorgan Chase subsidiary wearing hazmat suits and holding homemade signs accusing the bank of financing mass extinction and the climate crisis.
They are not wrong. Chase Bank has a propensity to finance the fossil fuel industry. A report released earlier this year by the Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club titled Banking on climate chaos called Chase Bank the world’s worst âfossil bankâ, noting that it contributed $ 51.3 billion in fossil fuel financing last year and a total of $ 317 billion from 2016 to 2020. The Bank funding is used to finance mining operations such as oil sands development and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
In fact, the top four fossil fuel finance banks, including Chase, are all based in the United States: Citibank spent $ 48.4 billion last year and a total of $ 237 billion since 2016; Wells Fargo spent $ 26 billion in 2020 (the report noted that the bank’s fossil fuel funding actually fell 42% last year); and Bank of America has spent nearly $ 200 billion in the past five years.
Banking on climate chaos report Also includes several case studies that show the impact of continued fossil fuel mega-financing on low-income communities and people of color, who are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.
Another report, published in 2019, revealed that several major US banks have been increasing their fossil fuel investments every year since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016, with Chase lending the largest amount to most fossil fuel projects in the world. .
Wilder, director of Climate Action Rhode Island’s campaign to end fossil fuel funding, concedes the polluting industry won’t stop until every methane bubble, tar sands deposit, coal seam and oil well will not have been exploited. He said the key to stopping the relentless burning of fossil fuels that is destroying the global ecosystem on which humans and countless other living things depend for their survival and prosperity is to shut down the funding pipeline.
âThe fossil fuel companies will do whatever they want until they get everything out of it,â he said. âBanks have a broader concern because they like to present themselves as civic organizations. But fossil fuel companies can’t do these projects unless they have the backing of banks and insurance companies. The most important thing we can do is change the behavior of the business.
This is why Wilder, Rhode Island Climate Action, Sunrise Providence, and their support network have staged some 40 protests and actions since 2018 – the coronavirus pandemic, especially last year, has sparked such gatherings. When organized, these protests aim to make banks and insurance companies uncomfortable because of their ties to an industry that is both burning and drowning the world.
Fossil fuel companies need bank loans and insurance protection. For example, customers of Mutual Freedom, the fifth-largest property and casualty insurance company in the United States with nearly $ 40 billion in premium income in 2019, includes some major fossil fuel projects including the Keystone XL pipeline, the Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline, and the Mariner East II natural gas pipeline.
The fossil fuel industry may not be thinking about climate advocates, but it’s harder for banks to shake off bad publicity. This is why Wilder, a resident of Cranston, and other activists, such as Elizabeth O’Connell of Warren and Diane Hill of North Kingstown, often appear in front of pro-oil banks or visit their branch lobbies – to let these institutions know that their investment choices are contributing to endanger the environment and public health.
I spoke with the three activists at the beginning of November in a cafe in Providence. As we shared a table outside, they discussed their concerns for their grandchildren’s future, lamented the loss of flora and fauna linked to fossil fuel pollution patterns and explained why they take the time to protest even if their friends and family show marginal support.
âYoung people are worried about their future,â Hill said. O’Connell called this man-made situation “frustrating”, “infuriating” and “disheartening.”
The three climate action advocates noted the problems – massive forest fires, prolonged droughts, increased flooding, population displacement and more frequent and intense storms – that we all face as the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels continue unabated.
Wilder, a retired union representative and community organizer, said Chase Bank, by funding these fossil fuel projects, is poisoning the planet and profiting from a crisis.
He and his fellow activists want the Rhode Islanders to reject the banking giant until it changes its practices. They were joined by other environmental action groups across the country calling on Chase and other banks too big to fail to divest from fossil fuels.
They encourage Rhode Islanders to do their banking with People’s Credit Union, Navigant Credit Union, Washington Trust, and / or BankNewport (Full disclosure: ecoRI News does its banking with BankNewport.)
Wilder said banking with local financial institutions that have limited investments in fossil fuel infrastructure is a response to the statement he regularly hears about the climate crisis: “There is nothing I can do about it.”