Activists: MN banks should divest from climate chaos
Report says Wells Fargo, US Bank invest billions in most-damaging fossil fuels
Minnesota banking giants Wells Fargo and US Bank invest billions in some of the industries that are causing runaway climate change including tar sands oil development, mountaintop coal removal and fracking, according to a new report by local climate change activist group MN350.
The report can be downloaded here: http://www.mn350.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Financing-Climate-Chaos.pdf
“Despite their stated concern for the community and environment, Wells and US Bank are putting their financial might behind deadly and dying industries that disproportionately pollute communities of color and put life as we know it in peril,“ said Ulla Nilsen, a MN350 member who co-authored the report. “The economics of a clean energy economy get better every day and would make a better investment than extreme fossil fuels.”
According to the report, “Financing Climate Chaos: How Minnesota’s Banking Giants Prioritize Profit in the Face of Climate Change”:
US Bank and Wells Fargo have financed the expansion of tar sands oil, a typed of mined oil that has high carbon emissions and devastating environmental effects.
• US Bank was the trustee for $400 million of securities issued in 2007 by Enbridge Energy, which is currently working on a massive expansion of their pipeline system linking new and existing pipelines across Minnesota, including what opponents call an illegal expansion of the Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline at the US/Canada border. US Bank also served as the trustee for $1.5 billion in securities issued in 2014 by a subsidiary of Enbridge.
• According to Rainforest Action Network, Wells Fargo has provided over $2 billion in financing to tar sands companies since 2007.
Minnesota’s Native American communities have led opposition to the expansion of Enbridge’s pipeline network. Winona Laduke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth states, “New pipelines proposals from Enbridge put our relationship to our land, its health, and our communities at risk -- infringing on those treaty rights.”
Over the last 10 years, US Bank and Wells Fargo have provided over $12.7 billion in financing to the coal industry in the U.S., including significant support for the four largest coal companies in the U.S. - Peabody Energy Corporation, Arch Coal, Inc., Cloud Peak Energy, and Alpha Natural Resources. These four companies alone produce half of the coal in the United States.
• In 2013 Wells Fargo and US Bank jointly provided $1.7 billion in financing to Alpha Natural Resources, which owns the majority of mountaintop removal projects in the U.S. The following year that company was found guilty of over 6,000 instances of illegally dumping toxins into the waterways, over a period of 7 years, and agreed to $228 million in penalties and other costs.
“Mountaintop removal strip-mining is a particularly destructive form of coal mining, in which the tops of mountains are deforested and then removed with explosives and heavy machinery, flattening the landscape,” the report notes.
U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo also invest heavily in hydraulic fracking nationwide. “The two banks have provided over $24 billion in financing over the last ten years to companies in the fracking industry,” the report states.
The report calls on US Bank and Wells Fargo to stop financing the most extreme fossil fuel projects. “A commitment to move away from financing these sorts of extreme extraction projects--fracking, tar sands and shale oil infrastructure and destructive coal mining--would be a powerful statement in favor of a sustainable future,” it says.
It also recommends that banks divest investment funds from fossil fuel companies, actively seek out clean energy, socially just investments such as community solar projects, and support strong public policies that will enable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“Banks are in a position to either prolong the patterns of intensive energy use based on the burning of fossil fuels, or to invest in the necessary transition to an environmentally sustainable and just economy,“ Nilsen said.
Organizers with MN350 said they planned to ask US Bank and Wells Fargo executives to meet with concerned community members. Organizers hand-delivered a letter to US Banks’ Minneapolis headquarters on Monday, co-signed by leaders of MN350, SEIU Local 26, and workers center CTUL requesting that bank executives meet and take action about concerns raised in the report.
In recent years, several banks and international lending institutions, including the World Bank, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs have slowed or stopped their financing of the coal industry entirely. Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, declared that the warming climate presented major risks for the global economy and global financial stability in a recent speech the New York Times reported.
MN350 is a Minnesota based spin-off of the global 350.org, dedicated to “building a climate movement by inviting and inspiring Minnesotans to take powerful, collective action grounded in urgency, justice and possibility for our planet.” The organizations take their name from the scientifically recognized maximum safe amount of carbon in the atmosphere—350 parts per million—a level that has now been exceeded by global carbon emissions.
The MN350 report on climate change is the third in a series of reports titled "Inside the Vault: Exposing How US Bank and Wells Fargo Harm Minnesota Communities," that examines the different areas in which US Bank and Wells Fargo negatively impact Minnesota, including education, economy, electoral politics, consumer lending, and the environment. The reports can be found on http://www.insidethevault.org. The reports are being released by a coalition of groups that includes 15 Now Minnesota, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), Communication Workers of America, ISAIAH, MN 350, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26, and St. Paul Federation of Teachers.