The big banks are still funneling hundreds of billions into the fossil fuel industry, the report shows

More than $700 billion in loans and underwriting went into companies involved in fossil fuels last year, led by 60 of the world’s largest private banks, according to a report released Monday by several environmental groups. .

The annual report, compiled by the Sierra Club and the Rainforest Action Network among others, shows a slight decline in bank financing for oil, gas and coal from 2021, but researchers say it is not falling fast enough. .

For decades environmental activists have been trying to squeeze the money that underpins the fossil fuel industry, hoping to encourage a transition to clean energy. Climate advocates have been successful in recent years as ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles have begun to factor into the business strategies of many large financial institutions.

But Monday’s report highlights how global banks continue to fund new and existing fossil fuel-related efforts. Since 2016, when the Paris Agreement was ratified and nations around the world agreed to limit emissions, banks have financed fossil fuel interests with about $7 trillion, according to the report.

Top fossil fuel financier for three consecutive years: JPMorgan Chase, the report said, has increased its commitments to fossil fuel-related businesses from an estimated $38.7 billion in 2022 to $40.8 billion in 2023.

“JPMorgan has taken a number of steps to try to strengthen their climate commitments,” said April Merleaux, research manager with the Rainforest Action Network and lead researcher on the report. “But the practices and policies they are implementing do not move fast enough to recognize the urgency of this moment. Few banks are reducing their funding of fossil fuels at the pace that needs to be reduced.”

Some banks had questions about the methodologies used by the researchers to compile the report, expressing concerns about the accuracy of data and how transactions were categorized as fossil fuels.

In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for JPMorgan Chase said the company’s own data reflects “our activities more comprehensively than third-party estimates” and emphasized its commitment to “zero power.”

Satyajit Bose, a professor of sustainability management at Columbia University who was not involved in the report, said the study’s methodology was generally sound, although he questioned a few elements. In one case, the authors indiscriminately included sustainability-linked bonds — a type of green financing issued by banks to encourage sustainable business — as fossil fuel-related bonds if the company acquiring the bonds operates in the fuel industry fossil.

Bose also expressed concern about the report’s categorization of refinanced loans as refinanced loans, which he said could be misleading because it did not take into account the terms of the loan.

Close behind JPMorgan Chase on the report’s list of the “dirty dozen” fossil fuel financiers was Tokyo-based Mizuho Financial Group, followed by Bank of America.

Mizuho has increased its fossil fuel funding over the past few years to a total of over $37 billion, with a particular interest in methane gas, also known as natural gas. According to the report, the Japanese bank has committed $10.9 billion to gas expansion projects in 2023.

A broader increase in interest in methane gas amid the energy crisis in Europe – fueled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – may have been a contributing factor to global gas financing last year, Merleaux said.

Mizuho declined to comment on the report.

Meanwhile, Bank of America was third for nearly $34 billion in financial commitments to companies that do business in fossil fuels. In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson said that Bank of America is high on the amount of energy financing, offering loans and underwriting in equal proportion to low carbon and fossil fuel energy companies.

Advocacy groups are planning an active summer of protests on Wall Street to put further pressure on banks to stop financing fossil fuel interests. The “Summer of Heat,” organized by groups such as Climate Defenders and Planet Beyond Profit, began in April, with protesters targeting Citigroup for its financial activities.

According to the new report, Citigroup has provided nearly $400 billion to fossil fuel interests since 2016, although its commitments in the field have declined since 2019.

A Citigroup spokesperson said in a statement that the company is committed to transitioning to a low-carbon economy and since 2020 has put over $400 billion towards its goal of investing $1 trillion in sustainable finance by 2030. The group also aims to achieve. – zero carbon emissions for its operations by 2030.

At an upcoming protest in June, Citigroup will continue to be the focus, climate action organizers said.

“Citi is one of the biggest funders we believe we can move with,” said Jonathan Westin, an organizer with Climate Defenders. “We’re trying to send a message to Wall Street banks that they need to get off fossil fuels and make real plans to exit funding pipelines, natural gas facilities and oil rigs around the globe.”

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