Quantcast

Bank Funding of Fossil Fuels Soars

Energy

By Katherine Wei

Private banks around the world are back to funneling more money into the global fossil fuel sectors in 2017, according to a report released today by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Sierra Club and Honor The Earth.


Banking on Climate Change 2018 is the ninth annual report that ranks bank policies and practices in funding fossil fuel production and extraction, including drilling for oil in tar sands, the Arctic and in deep water. The report examines 36 private banks from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, Japan and China, and breaks down how much funding is going to different fossil fuel subsectors and companies.

This year's numbers saw an 11 percent jump in funding, from $104 billion in 2016 to $115 billion in 2017, with the tar sands sector holding the biggest responsibility for the increase, along with continued financing in coal. In tar sands alone, bank lending and underwriting to tar sands oil extraction and pipeline projects grew by 111 percent from 2016 to 2017, reaching $98 billion. The three banks that contributed are the Royal Bank of Canada, TD Bank and JPMorgan Chase.

The report points out how very few banks are aligning their business plans with the 2016 Paris climate agreement, whose temperature goals require banks to cease financing expansion of the fossil fuel sector. "Banks voice their support for climate action and the Paris Climate agreement, but funnel money into the fossil fuel industry at the same time," said Ben Cushing, the campaign representative of Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuel campaign.

According to the report's key data, large Chinese banks and some European banks have reduced their financing in tar sands, but the reduction fell short compared to the massive increases from Canadian and U.S. banks. Aside from the tar sands sector, bank support for Arctic and deep water oil has continued its decline from the years before, dropping 17 percent in 2017. Among European banks that are redesigning their financing policies, French bank BNP Paribas has shown the most effort, with restrictions for coal financing and some parts of oil and gas as well.

Although bank financing for fossil fuels had gone down from $126 billion in 2015 to $104 billion in 2016, the adoption of the Paris climate agreement did not have a lasting effect on the banks' decisions as many environmentalists had hoped. "People are realizing that they have the ability to hold these banks accountable for investing in extreme fossil fuels … Especially with backsliding from the administration and Congress on protecting the environment and combating climate change, people are pushing corporations to take action," said Cushing.

Sierra Club activists wrote 160,000 letters to Wells Fargo Bank last year, asking the bank to stop financing projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline, and more than 25,000 Club members have pledged to divest their money from U.S. banks analyzed in the report, including Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America and Citi Bank.

Indigenous activist leaders have also pledged to divest in U.S. banks that fund fossil fuel companies. "Since the dog attacks and water cannons used on unarmed citizens at Standing Rock, indigenous people have been heavily engaged in divestment efforts around the world," said Tara Houska, national campaigns director of Honor The Earth. "The financial industry is on notice the human rights policies banks claim are in place must be enforced."

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

Pexels
  • Mice exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor developed lung cancer within a year.
  • More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
  • Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.

A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Demonstrators with The Animal Welfare Institute hold a rally to save the vaquita, the world's smallest and most endangered porpoise, outside the Mexican Embassy in DC on July 5, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

By John R. Platt

Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less
Air conditioners, like these in a residential and restaurant area of Singapore city, could put a massive strain on electricity grids during more intense heatwaves. Taro Hama @ e-kamakura / Moment / Getty Images

By Tim Radford

Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Actress Jane Fonda is arrested on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on Oct. 11. Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post via Getty Images

Oscar-award winning actress and long-time political activist Jane Fonda was arrested on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Friday for peacefully protesting the U.S. government's inaction in combating the climate crisis, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
sam thomas / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Caroline Hickman

I'm up late at night worrying that my baby brothers may die from global warming and other threats to humanity – please can you put my mind at rest? – Sophie, aged 17, East Sussex, UK

Read More Show Less
Sheriff officials work the scene at Villa Calimesa Mobile Home Park in Calimesa on Oct. 13. Jennifer Cappuccio Maher / MediaNews Group / Inland Valley Daily Bulletin / Getty Images

Three people have died in incidents related to two major wildfires in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times Reported Sunday.

Read More Show Less