As climate strikes roar around the globe, the fossil fuel industry’s social license to pollute our planet is looking increasingly likely to expire. Even more than that, campaigners are starting to hit the fossil fuel industry’s sources of income.
Financial flows from banks and insurers to oil and gas companies are an important lever. If we can stop the funding, pipelines and drilling sites cannot go ahead, and fossil fuels will have to stay where they belong: in the ground.
The G20 Finance ministers are meeting in Japan this weekend ahead of the summit meeting at the end of June. But they’re not showing enough leadership to stop the climate crisis. Repeatedly we’ve seen leaders around the world stand down from their responsibility to address the climate crisis. Thankfully, local campaigns everywhere have their eye on the money.
Here are some recent campaigns as well as key wins in the ongoing fight to stop fossil fuel finance:
1. Asian banks dump coal in lead-up to G20
Asia’s banks are taking their money out of coal, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel. In financial hub Singapore, the big 3 banks: DBS Group Holdings, United Overseas Bank, and the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation have each announced ending financing for new coal-fired power plants in the last month. And one of the world’s biggest banks, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG) of Japan, announced a stop to new project finance for coal power in May 2019.
But Japan needs to do more. 350 Japan just held a press briefing in Marunouchi to hold up Japanese citizens’ commitments to divest and urge the financial sector to get in line with the Paris Agreement. As chair of this upcoming G20, Japan has an opportunity to lead, by stopping any new finance for coal development and rapidly shifting investment to renewable energy.
2. Activists occupy Europe’s investment bank
On June 7, as weekly climate strikes got started across the globe again, people occupied the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Luxembourg. The bank still considers it acceptable to spend public money to finance fossil fuel projects, gas in particular. Nearly 20,000 people have signed on to this petition for a Fossil Free EIB. And after the European elections, where climate was a major issue, student strikers published an announcement that they’re also targeting the EIB and fossil-funding banks.
3. The Pope sends a message to financiers
At the end of May, in a meeting with national finance ministers from around the world, Pope Francis delivered a direct speech saying that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. His calls for action are getting more urgent – yet the Vatican Bank is still invested in fossil fuels. There’s an ongoing campaign to divest that’s gathered thousands of signatures.
“We live at a time when profits and losses seem to be more highly valued than lives and deaths, and when a company’s net worth is given precedence over the infinite worth of our human family.”
4. Shareholders defy bank management
In South Africa, Standard Bank shareholders defied management and voted to pass a resolution obligating the bank to disclose information on its coal investments and put forward a new policy to limit climate change. It’s the first time we’ve seen a climate shareholder resolution pass for any listed company in the world. And it came just after Nedbank became the first bank in Africa to divest from coal. With both African and Japanese banks backing away from fossil fuels, it’s clearly becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
5. HSBC gets a rebrand
In April 2018, HSBC decided to stop funding coal – but they left a loophole to allow funding to flow to projects in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia. People from these nations are demanding the bank walk completely away from coal, and invest in renewable energy that works for all. They recently took HSBC’s Together We Thrive ad and helped them point out the truth.
If any of these stories and campaigns inspire you, think about finding a campaign near you and getting involved with some friends. It’s going to take all of us to shut down fossil fuel finance.