The 2019 Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card points out that JPMorgan Chase was, indeed, the leader in fossil fuel complicity projects between 2016 and 2018 with $196 billion expended. Wells Fargo was a distant second with $156 billion. And JPMorgan Chase supports more ultra-deepwater oil and gas development and coal mining and liquefied natural gas than any other investor.
If you want more evidence, just look at Chase’s top US bank track record on tar sands development. With enormous amounts of fresh water needed to extract bitumen, a viscous low-grade crude, tar sands oil is a particularly greenhouse gas-intensive fuel. The toxic tailings end up in ponds, and tar sands projects in Canada and elsewhere have devastated vast tracts of boreal forests that were natural carbon sinks and habitat for threatened wildlife.
Divestment efforts continue to challenge fossil fuel complicity around the US and the globe.
- The drive by climate change activists to require New York state’s largest state pension fund to divest its fossil fuel portfolio is picking up momentum in Albany, despite the reported opposition from several public employee unions worried that such an action would weaken the fund’s bottom line. The Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, sponsored by State Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, would require State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to divest the state’s holdings in 200 of the largest fossil-fuel corporations over the next 5 years, with a more expedited sell-off for poorly performing coal-company stocks.
- 350.org continues its effort to bring awareness to fossil fuel complicity and the need for divestment. It is joining other advocacy efforts to demand HSBC stop profiting from death and destruction of people and the planet.
- In March, the government of Norway announced a recommendation for the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, worth $1 trillion, to divest more than $7.5 billion of holdings from upstream oil and gas industries. This proposal will next be put to a parliamentary vote.
- Nearly six years after Middlebury College rejected a push to divest, the college announced that it will slowly draw down fossil fuel holdings in its $1 billion endowment. A spring 2018 student referendum that found about 80% of students in favor of divestment — and a faculty referendum last fall with 98% approval — showed strong campus engagement, which prompted the evolution of divestment on campus.
An area where campaigners have recently begun to have marked successes is divestment. Most fossil fuel companies, they argue, have little concern for future generations. Rather than focusing on market pressures and fiduciary duties involved in running public companies, we need to advocate for the long view of investments that compel behavioral norms to favor the earth and environment.