Energy & Environment

Four US banks are the world’s largest fossil fuel financers: analysis

A new analysis from a coalition of environmental groups has found that four U.S. banks are the world’s largest fossil fuel financers.

The analysis, conducted by a group including the organizations BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Reclaim Finance, and the Sierra Club, estimates that J.P. Morgan Chase provided nearly $65 billion in fossil fuel financing last year, the largest out of any of the 35 banks listed in the report. 

It also found that other top banks included Citi, which provided an estimated $52 billion, Bank of America, which provided an estimated $48 billion and Wells Fargo, which provided an estimated $45 billion.

The financing estimates were made based on loans and underwriting given to companies that have fossil fuels as part of their business. The percentage of each loan or underwriting deal that was counted toward a company’s financing dollar amount was based on what percentage of the company’s business comes from fossil fuels.

For example, if a bank gave a loan to a company whose business was 20 percent based in fossil fuels, only 20 percent of the loan would be counted in the bank’s total fossil fuel financing. 

The report comes at a time when financial institutions who provide money to fossil fuel companies are facing increased scrutiny. Some banks in recent weeks have taken steps to lessen their impact, focusing on fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic. 

J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have said they will stop approving loans to companies pursuing new fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic. Wells Fargo has also said that it does not directly finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic. 

Asked for comment on the report, Wells Fargo told The Hill in a statement that it believes “climate change is one of the most urgent environmental and social issues of our time, and we are committed to doing our part to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The company also highlighted its 2018 commitment to provide $200 billion in financing to sustainable businesses and projects by 2030 and its lending or investing of about $49 billion in sustainable business and projects in 2018 and 2019. 

“We are also supporting our traditional energy customers as they transition to cleaner fuels and generation methods, and we actively engage them on best practices in adaptation around the need to operate in a carbon-constrained world and our expectations for robust management of greenhouse gas emissions in their operations,” the company said. 

Still, the groups behind Wednesday’s analysis are calling for more action from financial institutions. 

Alison Kirsch, the climate and energy lead researcher at Rainforest Action Network said in a statement that the findings show “a deeply disturbing picture of how financial institutions are driving us toward climate disaster.”

“The data reveals that global banks are not only ramping up financing of fossil fuels overall, but are also increasing funding for the companies most responsible for fossil fuel expansion.”


The report also found that between the start of 2016 and the end of 2019, the 35 banks have financed fossil fuels with more than $2.7 trillion combined. 

“It is long past time for all banks to pull their support for dirty fossil fuels, and our movement will continue to fight to ensure that they do,” said a statement from Ben Cushing, a campaigner from The Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels initiative. 

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