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World's Banks Have Given $2.7 Trillion to Fossil Fuels Since Paris Agreement Begun, Study Shows

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World's Banks Have Given $2.7 Trillion to Fossil Fuels Since Paris Agreement Begun, Study Shows
The Canadian banks are the biggest bankers of tar sands and they all lack policies restricting their financing to this subsector. A new report reveals that the business practices of the world's major private-sector banks continue to drive us toward climate disaster. ALEXANDER JOE / AFP / Getty Images

Financial companies are increasingly being recognized — by their clients, shareholders, regulators, and the general public — as climate actors, with a responsibility to mitigate their climate impact. For the banks highlighted in this report, the last year has brought a groundswell of activism demanding banks cut their fossil fuel financing, at the same time that increasingly extreme weather events have further underscored the urgency of the climate crisis. Nevertheless, the report reveals that the business practices of the world's major private-sector banks continue to drive us toward climate disaster.


Adding up lending and underwriting from 35 private-sector banks to the fossil fuel industry, this report finds that Canadian, Chinese, European, Japanese, and U.S. banks have financed fossil fuels with $2.7 trillion since the Paris agreement was adopted (2016-2019), with financing on the rise each year. The report finds that fossil fuel financing continues to be dominated by the big U.S. banks — JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America — together, these four banks account for a staggering 30 percent of all fossil fuel financing from the 35 major global banks since the Paris agreement was adopted.

Also examined are the banks' support for 100 top fossil fuel companies that are expanding fossil fuels, given that there is no room for new fossil fuels in the world's carbon budget. Banks continued to support these companies with $975 billion in the last four years. Despite the urgent need to immediately halt all fossil fuel expansion, financing for these top 100 expanders skyrocketed 40 percent from 2018 to 2019.

The report card also assesses bank policy and practice around financing in certain key fossil fuel subsectors, with league tables and policy grades on:

  • Tar Sands Oil: The biggest bankers of tar sands — the Canadian banks, led by TD and RBC, plus JPMorgan Chase and Barclays — all lack policies restricting their financing to this subsector.
  • Arctic Oil and Gas: 2019 saw a slew of bank policies restricting financing primarily for project financing in the Arctic. But overall, bank financing to top Arctic oil and gas companies has gone up every year since Paris
  • Offshore Oil and Gas: This year's report looks not just at ultra-deepwater oil and gas, but rather all offshore oil and gas, where the biggest bankers since Paris are JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and BNP Paribas.
  • Fracked Oil and Gas: Fracking financing is dominated by the U.S. banks: JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citi. Only a handful of banks, all European, have begun to place significant restrictions on financing for fracked oil and gas.
  • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)?: Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase are the world's biggest bankers since Paris of top companies building LNG import and export terminals, but Mizuho was biggest in 2019.
  • Coal Mining: China Construction Bank and Bank of China are the biggest bankers of coal mining, while French banks Credit Mutuel and Credit Agricole have the strongest policy scores.
  • Coal Power: This is the area where bank policy scores are strongest overall; yet funding for top coal power producers is not dropping rapidly enough. Financing is led by ICBC and Bank of China, with Citi as the top non-Chinese banker of coal power.

In this new decade, the climate emergency is clearer than ever, with emissions cuts of almost 5 percent necessary by 2030 if we are to have a coin-flip chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. To align their policies and practices with a world that limits global warming to 1.5°C and fully respects human rights, and Indigenous rights in particular, banks must:

  • Explicitly acknowledge the central role of the fossil fuel industry as the major driver of climate breakdown, as well as the banks' own role in financing this sector.
  • Prohibit all financing for all fossil fuel expansion projects and companies expanding fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure (such as plants and pipelines).
  • Commit to phase out all financing for fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, on an explicit timeline that is aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
  • Phase out financing for existing projects and companies active in tar sands oil, Arctic oil and gas, offshore oil and gas, fracked oil and gas, liquefied natural gas, coal mining, and coal power, with ending financing for expansion of these subsectors as an urgent first step.
  • Fully respect all human rights, particularly the rights of Indigenous peoples, including their rights to their water and lands and the right to free, prior, and informed consent, as articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.156 Prohibit all financing for projects and companies that abuse human rights, including Indigenous rights.
Reposted with permission from Oil Change International.

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Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.

"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."

Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.

It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.

Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.

Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.

One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.

The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.

They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.

"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."

That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.

And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.

"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."

Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.

"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.

The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.

"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."


Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan

Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

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The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

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To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

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