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Global Call On Banks To Stop Financing Fossil Fuels

Above Photo: An oil rig and wind farm in Texas. Aneese / iStock / Getty Images.

NOTE: is a coalition of groups working to stop banks from investing in fossil fuel infrastructure. They have a sign on global call to action and a campaign of actions focused on the UN COP meeting in Glasgow, Scotland this November. Visit their website to learn more.

The world is facing an acute climate crisis. [1] With global temperatures rising, ever more droughts, floods, storms and fires are bringing destruction and havoc to communities and countries everywhere. 

To stop the world descending into full climate chaos, the continued burning of fossil fuels must be brought to an end as soon as possible. Even burning all coal, oil, and gas reserves already in production will push global temperature rise far beyond 1.5°C and likely beyond 2°C [2], the stated goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. [3] This leaves no space for further exploration or extraction, yet many fossil fuel companies plan to vastly expand their operations [4], posing a true existential threat to people and planet.

For too long, banks have continued to support the fossil fuel industry. In the 5 years since the Paris Agreement, the world’s 60 biggest banks alone have already provided a staggering USD 3.8 trillion to the fossil fuel sector. [5] For the sake of our very survival, this must stop. 

We, organisations from all over the world, call on all banks to acknowledge that their continued support for the fossil fuel industry is incompatible with saving the planet from climate breakdown, and to urgently take the following steps to end this support:

  1. Immediately end all financing for fossil fuel expansion projects and for all companies expanding fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, along the whole fossil fuel value chain. [6]
  2. Publish plans to phase out all ongoing financing for fossil fuel projects and companies, on a timeline aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C [7], starting with coal mining and coal power, as well as projects and companies active in tar sands oil, Arctic oil and gas, offshore oil and gas, fracked oil and gas, and LNG.
  3. Require all existing clients to publish phase out plans for their fossil fuel activities on a 1.5°C-aligned timeline.
  4. Commit to zero out the climate impact of all financing before 2050, and to halve this impact by 2030 at the latest [8], without relying on discredited offset schemes;
  5. Immediately end all financing for fossil fuel projects and companies that abuse human rights, including Indigenous rights, and
  6. Publicly and comprehensively report on all the previous steps.

Our organisations pledge to do all we can to end bank finance for the fossil fuel sector, to prevent a climate breakdown and ensure the banking sector promotes a rapid and just energy transition.

[1] The Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC report published in 2018 urged the world to limit global warming to 1.5°C, which would likely prevent the impacts from climate change from becoming catastrophic and uncontrollable. The report also noted that “limiting warming to 1.5ºC is not physically impossible but would require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society”. These unprecedented changes are obviously not taking place, making every year harder to limit global warming to 1.5ºC. See for example the stark warning of 15,364 scientists that signed: World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice in 2017 in Bioscience.

[2] The carbon budget is defined as the “the upper limit of total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with having a certain chance to remain below a specific global average temperature increase”. So, to have a 50% chance of staying below 1.5ºC, the carbon budget at 1-1-2018 was about 580 Gt CO2 (IPCC 2018, page 108) and decreases by about 40 Gt CO2 per year. At the same time, the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines plus the expected emissions from land use change and cement would emit about 1150 Gt CO2. So the emissions from current fossil fuel infrastructure is roughly twice the amount of CO2 we can still emit to stay below 1.5ºC. See also “Big Oil Reality Check: Assessing Oil and Gas Company Climate Plans” from Oil Change International.

[3] Article 2 of the Paris Agreement states that one of the goals is “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. See also the Paris Agreement,” United Nations, page 3.

[4] Most of the oil majors are planning to increase fossil fuel production between 2020 and 2030. Some oil majors have climate plans, but these are woefully insufficient and rely heavily on offsetting, ‘nature based solutions’, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and other speculative negative emission technologies (NETs). See also “Big Oil Reality Check: Assessing Oil and Gas Company Climate Plans” from Oil Change International.

[5] The world’s 60 largest banks by assets have financed (lending and underwriting of debt and equity issuances) the fossil fuel industry to the tune of USD 3.8 trillion in the five years since signing of the Paris Climate Agreement (2016-2020). See also “Banking on Climate Chaos: Fossil Fuel Finance Report 2021” by Rainforest Action Network and partners.

[6] All fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Climate Agreement, since the potential emissions from coal, oil and gas already in production would push us far beyond 1.5°C (See Big Oil Reality Check by Oil Change International). So any expansion of fossil fuel exploration or extraction, or expansion of infrastructure that drives continued and expanded extraction, is incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement and should not be financed by banks. See also Principles for Paris-aligned Financial Institutions by Rainforest Action Network and partners.

[7] A timeline aligned with 1.5°C roughly means cutting global emissions year-on-year and reaching at least a 50% reduction by 2030 from 2010 levels and zeroing out emissions by 2050. It also requires phasing out the most polluting fossil fuels, like coal and tar sands, faster than less polluting (conventional) oil and natural gas. See also Figure SPM.3b on page 14 of the Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC report and Climate Analytics 2019 report.

[8] Figure SPM.3b on page 14 of the Global Warming of 1.5°C IPCC report shows that, for the so called illustrative model pathways (P1 and P2) that do not heavily rely on untested and speculative negative emissions technologies, emissions should at least be halved by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and effectively zeroed-out by 2050.

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