Seniors block bank entrances in nationwide climate protests


When customers of the four largest American banks visit their branches on Tuesday, an unusual sight awaits them: activists in rocking chairs block the entrances.

It is part of a national campaign to pressure banks to stop financing fossil fuels and heed leading scientists’ warnings about the need to phase out oil, gas and coal quickly to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The rocking chairs are the brainchild of Third Act, a group trying to engage Americans over 60 – who are in their “third act” of life – in environmental activism. However, the demonstrations are expected to draw participants of all ages in about 100 cities in 29 states, according to the 53 groups organizing the events.

The protests contribute to the assembly Environmental pressures on Wall Street from politicians from both parties. Liberal lawmakers have asked major financial institutions to sever ties with the fossil-fuel industry, while conservatives have attacked what they see as “awakened” capitalism, a reference to corporations viewing climate change as an economic risk.

This group is escalating the GOP attack on “woke” Wall Street

In between are four banks — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citibank and Wells Fargo — which rank as the world’s largest lenders to the fossil fuel industry, according to a report released last year by the Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups. Since the passage of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, the four companies have collectively provided more than $1 trillion in loans and bonds to companies building new coal-fired power plants, natural gas pipelines and other fossil-fuel infrastructure.

“In some ways, if we could get the banks to shift, it would probably have more of a global impact than getting Congress to shift,” said Bill McKibben, the author and climate activist who ratified the Third Act in 2021 called life. “Washington doesn’t really rule the world anymore. But Wall Street still does.”

Mobilizing the boomers on the climate issue

In recent years, young people have dominated climate activism worldwide, with Swedish teenage Greta Thunberg organizing school strikes and the youth-led Sunrise movement urging Congress to pass last year’s landmark climate bill. But McKibben said baby boomers – defined as people born between 1946 and 1964 – have a moral responsibility to join the crusade against the climate.

“If you’re 65 years old now, you’ve put on this planet about 80 percent of all the carbon dioxide that’s ever been emitted,” he said. “There is a debt that must be paid and there are ways to pay it.”

Activists began planning the protests well before the March 10 collapse of the Silicon Valley bank. But subsequently, consumers and businesses have poured tens of thousands of dollars into the coffers of the country’s largest banks because of their perceived safety, making the demonstrations more timely, organizers said.

On Monday, a somber report from the world’s top climate scientists lent even more urgency to the demonstrations. The report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that nations must move their economies away from fossil fuels quickly to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, including sea levels rising by several feet, the extinction of hundreds of species and migration by millions of people from places where they can no longer survive.

According to the UN climate report, the world is on the brink of catastrophic warming

One of Tuesday’s biggest protests is expected to draw hundreds of people to the heart of the country’s capital. A rally downtown will include remarks from environmental leaders including Ben Jealous, the new executive director of the Sierra Club and former head of the NAACP.

“The big banks in the US are really taking part in the #1 threat to the future of our planet,” Jealous said. “When I was President of the NAACP, I successfully sued the big banks to change their anti-discrimination practices. And now that I run the Sierra Club, I see a similar need to pressure the banks to get out of the fossil fuel financing business.”

The demonstration in Washington will end at a downtown intersection where both Chase and Wells Fargo have offices. Elsewhere in the country, activists will cut up their credit cards.

Although organizers are encouraging customers of the four biggest banks to relocate their business elsewhere, they say the main point of the protests is to urge those banks to change their policies. “The key is to push them to make the switch over the coming months – that’s more important than cleaning your wallet!” McKibben said via email.

Wendy Benchley, a marine conservationist and widow of “Jaws” author Peter Benchley, previously stole her chart while diving in Key West, Florida, where warming waters have triggered severe coral bleaching.

“Coral reefs are in terrible trouble,” Benchley said. “And right now, the big banks are planning to have more fossil fuel infrastructure built for another 20 or 30 years. It’s just absolutely tragic.”

Which banks are the biggest financiers of fossil fuels?

Chase, the subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase, was the largest financier of fossil fuels from 2016 to 2021, providing about $382.4 billion, according to the report by the Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups. Citi was the second largest company during this period, committing approximately $285.4 billion. (The latest version of the report, covering the years 2017 to 2022, is scheduled to be released in April.)

A spokeswoman for JPMorgan Chase dismissed the report’s findings, citing a separate analysis by BloombergNEF that found the company was the largest financier of renewable energy in 2021 and 2022, facilitating more than $175 billion.

“These efforts help us meet our goal of $1 trillion for green initiatives over 10 years, including technologies that will fight climate change but don’t even exist yet,” the spokeswoman said in an e-mail. Mail.

Citi has also touted its moves toward sustainability. The bank has committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gases by 2021 Emissions related to its financing activities by 2050 and for its operations by 2030. Citi has also committed to providing $1 trillion to sustainable finance by the end of the decade.

“Citi respects the advocacy of climate activists and their right to protest, and we share the goal of transitioning to a low-carbon economy,” a spokeswoman said in an email.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said in an email that the bank, which also has a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, “believes climate change is one of the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time.”

Bank of America did not respond to a request for comment.

Sign up for The Climate 202, a daily newsletter on climate change policy and policy

Across the Atlantic, London-based HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, said in December it would stop funding new oil and gas wells. The move followed a year of pressure from shareholders and activists.

“It’s not an entirely impossible feat,” said Lawrence MacDonald, 68, a climate activist from Arlington, Virginia who helped organize the protests in Washington. “HSBC has made a very good move.”

However, other Wall Street titans have reassured conservative critics that they are still investing in fossil fuels. Money managers are not “the environmental police,” BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote in his annual letter to investors last week, adding that the company continues to invest in natural gas pipelines.

At the same time, Fink defended his commitment to ESG investing — environmental, social and governance — which has made him a top target for Republican lawmakers.

“For years we have viewed climate risk as an investment risk,” he wrote. “It still is.”


Leave a Comment