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U.S. banks remain the world’s largest funders of fossil fuels – Marketplace



There’s a really good chance that your bank is financing the oil and gas industry. Last year, JPMorgan Chase was once again the number one fossil fuel financier in the world, according to the 15th Banking on Climate Chaos report compiled by a group of environmental organizations.

Some of the other top investors: Citibank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America. Have we mentioned your bank yet?

Banks have collectively invested almost $7 trillion in fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement went into effect.

Jim Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University, wasn’t surprised to see banks at the top of the investor list. Banks invest in projects, he said. That’s just what they do.

“My first reaction is water is wet,” he said. “Our banks are big, they lend money to everybody. Our oil and gas companies are big, they need to borrow a lot of money. So it’s not surprising that our banks are lending a lot of money to the fossil fuel industry.”

As for American banks topping the list, there are a couple reasons for that.

Reason one: “The banks that are based in the U.S. are just the biggest banks in the world. I mean, that’s not just true of oil and gas; that’s true of all sorts of lines of business,” said University of Pennsylvania finance professor Dan Garrett.

And the other? Banks are under pressure to keep funding the fossil fuel industry.

For example, “Texas banned banks from participating in their public finance market that is underwriting municipal bonds, or advising on state pension funds, that sort of thing. If they had, the word is ‘discriminated against’ oil and gas companies,” Garrett said.

Nearly half of the money banks invested this year went toward expansionary projects, the report says. But there’s good news in it too. Banks loaned less to fossil fuel projects than they did last year, and last year they loaned less than the year before.

“So it starts to look like a trend, and I want to be hopeful about that,” said April Merleaux of Rainforest Action Network, who is also the lead researcher on the report.

The majority of the loans banks are giving to the oil and gas industry will get paid back before 2030, and that’s likely on purpose, she said.

“Because the fossil fuel client business models just aren’t compatible with climate reality,” she said.

Still, there’s a long way to go to reach our climate goals. Customers who aren’t happy about their bank investing in fossil fuels should tell them that or think about moving their money to another institution, Merleaux added.

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