The 13th annual “Banking on Climate Chaos” report, believed to be the most comprehensive global analysis on fossil fuel banking to date, underscores the stark disparity between public climate commitments being made by the world’s largest banks, versus the reality of their largely business-as-usual financing to the fossil fuel industry.
The report documents that, in the six years since the Paris Agreement was adopted, the world’s 60 largest private banks financed fossil fuels with $4.6 trillion, with $742 billion in 2021 alone. The 2021 fossil fuel financing numbers remained above 2016 levels, when the Paris Agreement was signed.
Of particular significance is the revelation that the 60 banks profiled in the report funneled $185.5 billion just last year into the 100 companies doing the most to expand the fossil fuel sector.
“Banking on Climate Chaos” was authored by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Reclaim Finance, Sierra Club, and Urgewald, and is endorsed by over 500 organisations from around the world.
The report shows that overall fossil fuel financing remains dominated by four U.S. banks, with JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America together accounting for one quarter of all fossil fuel financing identified over the last six years. JPMorgan Chase remains the world’s worst funder of climate chaos, while JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Mizuho, MUFG, and all five Canadian banks were among those that increased their fossil financing from 2020 to 2021.
As global oil and gas markets are rocked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the data reveal JPMorgan Chase to be the biggest banker covered in this report for Russian state energy giant Gazprom, both in terms of 2016-2021 totals and when looking only at last year. JPMorgan Chase provided Gazprom with $1.1 billion in fossil fuel financing in 2021.
Mahir Ilgaz, 350.org Director of Global Policy and Campaigns, says: “We know two things. Firstly, if we are to limit warming to under 1.5 degrees and avert climate chaos, we need to leave fossil fuels in the past. Secondly, we know we can build a fair and just fossil free world based on renewables. But as this report drives home, banks remain entrenched in maintaining the global status quo of fossil fuel dependency.
“Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has underlined how this dependency deepens energy and economic insecurity, while fuelling the aggression of invaders. In order to bring about a more secure, just, and sustainable future, we must stop this madness. It is imperative that the financial sector assume responsibility by divesting from fossil fuels and pouring significant investment into renewable energy.”
Chuck Baclagon, 350.org Regional Finance Campaigner, says: “While China may have begun to lead the way on low-carbon development, their banks are lagging far behind. If banks like ICBC truly want to be global leaders, they need a robust fossil fuel financing exclusion policy that is on par with China’s goals for carbon neutrality. As we saw in the recent IPCC climate impacts report, and can expect in the upcoming IPCC mitigation report, we cannot continue business as usual. It is time to hold these financial institutions accountable and turn off the money tap to fossil fuels.”
Eri Watanabe, 350.org Japan Finance Campaigner, says: “This report reveals that six years after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, three Japanese megabanks continue to provide significant funding to the global fossil fuel sector. These banks’ current policy of continuing to fund expansion plans is inconsistent with their own net zero declarations, let alone the 1.5-degree target of the Paris Agreement.
“To meet the 1.5-degree target, there is an urgent need to develop rigorous climate policies that include corporate finance, which makes up the majority of fossil fuel finance. The investment and financing policy for the fossil fuel sector, including gas and oil, should be revised immediately based on climate science.”
The report includes a timeline that lays out how banks that joined the Net-Zero Banking Alliance (NZBA, part of the Global Financial Alliance for Net Zero) last year simultaneously financed some of the most egregious oil and gas expansion companies, potentially helping to lock the planet into decades of climate-warming emissions. Immediately following the April 2021 launch of the NZBA, many signatory and soon-to-be-signatory banks engaged in huge transactions completely counter to achieving “net zero”. Out of the 44 banks in this report currently committed to net-zero financed emissions by 2050, 28 still don’t have a meaningful no-expansion policy for any part of the fossil fuel industry.
The world’s leading climate scientists have concluded that existing reserves of fossil fuels contain more than enough carbon pollution to break our remaining ‘carbon budget’ and thrust the world past 2 degrees Celsius of warming – let alone the 1.5-degree aspirations of the Paris Agreement – and the climate catastrophe that entails.
Fossil Fuel Sector Trends
Alarmingly, tar sands saw a 51% increase in financing from 2020-2021 to $23.3 billion, with the biggest jump coming from Canadian banks RBC and TD, with JPMorgan Chase still a major player. Fracking saw $62.1 billion in financing last year, dominated by North American banks with Wells Fargo at the top. JPMorgan Chase, SMBC Group, and Intesa Sanpaolo were the top bankers of Arctic oil and gas last year, with $8.2 billion in funding to the sector in 2021. Morgan Stanley, RBC, and Goldman Sachs were 2021’s worst bankers of LNG, a sector that is looking to banks to help push through a slate of enormous infrastructure projects.
Big banks funneled $52.9 billion into offshore oil and gas last year, with U.S. banks Citi and JPMorgan Chase providing the most in 2021. Coal mining financing is led by the Chinese banks, with China Everbright Bank and China CITIC Bank as the worst in 2021. Big banks overall provided $17.4 billion to the sector last year.
In the next two months, all six Wall Street banks are expected to face shareholder resolutions calling on them to stop financing fossil fuel expansion and otherwise truly align their business practices with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
Maaike Beenes, Campaign lead Banks and Climate at BankTrack, said: “Climate science has made it inescapably clear that there can be no expansion of fossil fuels if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 ̊ C. But banks have continued to fund companies planning to open up new fossil fuel frontiers, including by financing disastrous projects like the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, expansion of fracking in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta and the expansion of the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline. Any serious ‘Net Zero by 2050’ commitment must also mean excluding all fossil fuel expansion projects and companies from financing.”
Mea Johnson, Divestment Campaign Coordinator, Indigenous Environmental Network: “These banks are funding climate chaos by financing fossil fuel extraction to the tune of $742 billion in 2021 alone. Indigenous peoples have long been leading the fight for the sacredness of the land, water and Earth. Mother Earth has always given us what we need to thrive. We will not back down until our natural balance is restored and anyone helping fund the extractive destruction of our communities will be held accountable.”
Alison Kirsch, Research and Policy Manager at Rainforest Action Network: “Any further expansion of fossil fuels risks locking humanity into generations of climate catastrophe, yet the top fossil clients of the world’s largest banks are still being showered with tens of billions of dollars even as they actively expand drilling, mining, fracking and other fossil fuel development unabated. With Wall Street banks leading the charge, these financial institutions are directly complicit in undermining a climate stable future for us all and must immediately end their support of any further fossil fuel infrastructure expansion.”
Lucie Pinson, Director at Reclaim Finance: “The data is clear: despite their net zero pledges and restrictions on fossil fuel financing, French banks BNP Paribas, Crédit Agricole, Société Générale and Natixis are still massively supporting oil and gas expansion, at odds with what climate science requires. No surprises there: as recently revealed by the Oil and Gas Policy Tracker, the many flaws in their oil and gas policies enable the banks to support major expansionists such as Gazprom, TotalEnergies, Saudi Aramco and BP despite their toxic fossil fuel plans. The war on Ukraine is another stark reminder that oil and gas are at the root of both war and climate change. It’s high time banks close the policy gaps and turn off the taps.”
Adele Shraiman, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Fossil-Free Finance campaign: “Despite their splashy climate pledges, big banks have largely continued with business-as-usual and actually increased their overall fossil fuel financing since the Paris Agreement. This report makes it clear that banks must clean up their act and stop funding the expansion of dirty fossil fuel projects like fracked gas exports, tar sands pipelines, and offshore drilling in order to align with what the science demands and what their own commitments require. As we look ahead to shareholder season, we’ll be keeping up the pressure on the banks and their investors to take these critical reforms seriously and stop bankrolling the fossil fuel industry’s reckless expansion plans.”
Katrin Ganswindt, Head of Finance Research at Urgewald: “On top of unleashing climate chaos around the globe, our continued reliance on fossil fuels is propping up some of the world’s most heinous political regimes. Russia is waging a brutal war on Ukraine where it treats civilians as legitimate military targets. Saudi Arabia still maintains its violent stranglehold on Yemen, and at home, it put 81 men to death by beheading in a single day. Yet the rest of the world turns a blind eye and keeps sending such oppressive regimes bloody fossil fuel checks. We desperately need to direct global financial flows away from destructive fossil fuels and the cruel and corrupt governments that weaponise them against our environment and ourselves.”