Updated: Feb 25, 2021
Banks are at the root of the climate emergency and have historically had the largest stake in supporting the fossil fuel industry: funding pipelines, arctic oil and gas drilling, coal mining, forest destruction, and companies that violate human and Indigenous rights.
Since 2016, 35 large corporate banks such as Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America have poured 2.7 Trillion dollars into the Fossil Fuel Industry. Just 100 companies are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, and their funding has only been made possible by banks.
It’s clear: we need to pull our money from banks that fund fossil fuels and keep them in banks invested in our future. Those that at the very least, have pledged to be fossil fuel-free.
Especially you’re currently banking at Chase. Chase is the world’s worst banker of climate chaos by far. Chase has dumped over a quarter TRILLION dollars into fossil fuels in the last four years alone. Fossil fuel finance by banks who are only increasing funding for dirty energy is destroying the climate against all logic, compassion, and understanding of Indigenous rights. Don’t fall for greenwashing either. Chase has a wishy-washy sustainability page about supporting renewable energy, and so do many corporate entities, yet they haven’t responded to protests in front of their buildings about divesting from fossil fuels.
If it isn’t clear yet, divestment is a vital method to fight climate change. We need to get all our friends, families, social media followers to make the switch starting from opening our first banks as young people. Our generation is the most aware of environmental issues, and we will not be unknowingly funding the climate crisis.
Divestment from institutions funding climate change also includes retirement plans, like CalSTRS, the California public school teachers’ retirement funds that invest over $6 billion in the fossil fuel industry. Advocating for this divestment is one of Youth vs. Apocalypse’s campaigns, #divestCalSTRS.
Because here’s a secret: in the last decade, profits have actually been on a continuous decline. It is no longer financially lucrative to invest in the fossil fuel industry. We’re wasting precious time and money. Divestment and reinvestment will build momentum for moving money into local community development, clean energy projects, and sustainable companies.
Direct actions you can take right now: looking into alternative banks
Pledge to start divesting, and make a plan to bank with a place that aligns with your values for the people and planet. To keep it easier, I’ve done some research and recommend Aglamanted Bank, Aspiration Bank, or Beneficial State Bank.
But you can do your research! Read more about how to find socially responsible banks below
There are also Black-owned banks. The goals of divestment are all connected. It’s a systemic change to redistribute money to communities, instead of upholding current oppressive systems in power that take money away from communities. Banks that care for marginalized communities provide needed access to communities that have been denied this money, because of things like low credit scores that exacerbate the cycle of poverty and are all part of systemic racism.
There are smaller banks like community banks and credit unions. There’s also been a movement for public banks, including one in San Francisco. Co-founded by Jackie Fielder, the mission of The San Francisco Public Bank Coalition is to establish a municipal-owned bank in San Francisco rooted in principles of racial, social, economic, and environmental justice, including pillars for underserved communities, Indigenous rights, accountability and transparency, and community wealth building.
A public bank could provide any benefits to San Francisco that the Board of Supervisors or voters choose. Rather than deposit taxpayer money in commercial banks, San Francisco would deposit taxpayer money in our own bank. Commercial banks can finance or invest in any companies or projects they choose, but a public bank would finance or invest only in companies and projects serving the needs of the city and its people. This would allow our bank to finance projects like affordable housing, and green infrastructure that will drive community revitalization. I highly recommend joining their newsletter to support this!
These alternate banks are a political force. They are even a way you can help the United State’s staggering wealth gap by redirecting our funds into smaller, community-centered, environmentally and socially responsible mission-driven banks.
Step-by-step how to move your money from your current bank to a new bank: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-the-best-way-to-move-my-checking-account-to-another-bank-or-credit-union-en-985/
Leave a strong message to your bad bank with this letter template
Spread the word! So many people aren’t aware. Tell your friends, post on your social media when you make your divestment.
Get involved in actions! Organize with organizations like https://www.sfpublicbank.org/, Youth vs Apocalypse, and really on any of the links in this article! Organizations usually have parts of their website with ways you can support them, how to get involved, volunteer, donate, etc.
A few organizations to check out
Stop the Money Pipeline coalition https://stopthemoneypipeline.com/
Mazaska Talks https://mazaskatalks.org/
Rainforest action network https://www.ran.org/
A great way to help is by subscribing to email newsletters to these organizations and making a habit of regularly signing petitions that reach your inbox.
Sign these petitions!
Tell Banks: Defund Line 3: https://stopthemoneypipeline.com/defund-line-3/
Watch and share this comprehensive video that even kids will understand about divestment! “What is Divestment” https://fossilfreeca.org/2020/06/05/watch-what-is-divestment/
Watch this empowering divestment campaign video, it’s really good:
Watch the Youth Power in Divestment Webinar recording and learn how to join the movement: https://www.notmydirtymoney.com/webinar/
Divesting is powerful, and something everyone can do and start right now. Let’s do this!
References (and resources where you can read more):
RAN’s extensive 2020 fossil fuel finance report: https://www.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Banking_on_Climate_Change__2020_vF.pdf