Coming on the heels of last week's announcement to abandon the Paris climate accord, a group of leading national social change organizations announced Tuesday that they are divesting funds from "pipeline banks" and instead banking in alignment with their values. This growing international movement represents the next wave of institutions and individuals refusing to do business with banks financing risky fossil fuel infrastructure projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Keystone XL, Trans Mountain and others.
The 15 U.S.-based organizations represent more than 13 million combined supporters. These groups have either already moved organizational money out of banks that finance DAPL and/or other tar sands pipelines, are in the process of doing so or never held an account in such banks in the first place. They currently, or will soon, use banks that they consider more socially responsible in principle and practice.
The groups include: 350.org, Climate Hawks Vote, CREDO, Earth Guardians, Friends of the Earth, Green America, Honor the Earth, Institute for Policy Studies, League of Conservation Voters, The Hip Hop Caucus, Oil Change International, Potlach Fund, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club and the U.S. Climate Action Network (USCAN).
"Shifting investments away from fossil fuels can help banks improve not just their social license but their bottom line—investments in clean, renewable energy have proven to be a boon to both our economy and our environment," Lena Moffitt, senior director of the Sierra Club's Our Wild America Campaign, said. "The people are watching where and what banks sink their funds into, and they will not back down until every last one commits to investing in a future that benefits their communities, their economies and their health."
According to Shorting the Climate, a report documenting big bank support for fossil fuel infrastructure, the top global and U.S. banks provided $785 billion for fossil fuel infrastructure such as coal and tar sands development from 2013 through 2015. Advocates are taking action to ensure that banks do not continue to finance and lock in infrastructure that will push the world past the Paris climate agreement objectives.
"Now, more than ever, organizations and individuals are waking up to the troubling reality of what their banks are supporting with their money," Vanessa Green, campaign director for DivestInvest Individual, said. "It's time for everyone to invest in our future and divest from projects and businesses that harm our environment. If our President won't do the right thing, then we all need to step up and do it ourselves."
After recent bank protests and a burning global spotlight, several banks have dropped investments in DAPL or have committed, as U.S. Bank recently did, to revisit their financing of future fossil fuel projects threatening Indigenous sovereignty, water and land. But as one form or other of bank financing continues for existing and proposed pipelines, efforts to defund them continue.
"For too long decision-makers have put the profit of polluters over the lives of real people," Mustafa Santiago Ali, senior vice president of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus, said. "Divesting in those who support those decision-makers and polluters is a way we are fighting back."
Last month, a coalition of grassroots Indigenous groups from across Turtle Island and 121 First Nations and Tribes of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion launched an expanded pipeline divestment campaign. With a focus on 17 primary target banks, they call on "individuals, businesses, organizations and governments to withdraw their money from these banks" until they stop financing Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and TransCanada, the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline and four proposed new tar sands pipelines projects. The Mazaska (Money) Talks campaign and aligned public petition are catalyzing account closures—currently over $3.6 billion—to tally the business lost due to the banks' continued involvement.
"Divestment has been a hugely successful tactic in confronting the global climate crisis and is now shining a bright light on the assaults on the sovereignty, land and water of First Nations people perpetuated by fossil fuel billionaires and their dirty pipelines," Jenny Marienau, U.S. campaigns director at 350.org, said. "Just this May during 350.org's Global Divestment Mobilization, thousands of people attended over 260 events in 45 countries on six continents to put pressure on institutions to break their financial ties with fossil fuel companies."
Most major banks are invested in fossil fuel companies and infrastructure projects like pipelines, refineries and export terminals, among other risky industries. A growing number of online resources exist to help account holders identify alternatives like small and medium-sized banks, credit unions, CDCUs and CDFIs that support a clean and equitable energy transition, local economic development, fair housing, sustainable food systems and more.