The Climate Movement Is Going After Wall Street

Transition US has joined a new coalition called “Stop the Money Pipeline” to help end the financing of fossil fuels.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The climate movement has a new target: Wall Street. 

Transition US has joined a coalition of some of the nation’s leading climate, youth, and Indigenous organizations, who have launched a major new mobilization on Friday, January 10th, 2020, called Stop the Money Pipeline, that will pressure banks, insurance companies and assets managers to stop financing fossil fuels and deforestation and start respecting human rights and Indigenous sovereignty. 

“Feels like there really is a new round of strength forming in these burgeoning collectives and coalitions. Hallelujah!” said Carolyne Stayton, co-chair of Transition US.

The campaign kicked off on Friday, January 10th, 2020 with a finance focused “Fire Drill Friday” protest in Washington D.C. featuring celebrity activists Jane Fonda, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Martin Sheen, and Joaquin Phoenix, leading environmentalists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, and Indigenous leaders Tara Houska and Eriel Deranger. The Finance Fire Drill started with a rally at the Capitol before a “sit-in” at a nearby Chase bank branch. 

The financial industry is fueling the climate emergency with every dollar it invests in fossil fuels. Even as the world’s leading scientists issue dire warnings about the need to stop the use of gas, oil, and coal, Wall Street continues to drive the fossil fuel industry’s expansion. Banks provide the loans, investors the capitol, and insurance companies the insurance.

For banks, activists have been targeting JP Morgan Chase, the largest private funder of fossil fuels in the world. Since the Paris Agreement, Chase has dumped more than $196 billion into new fossil fuel projects. The top target in insurance is Liberty Mutual. For asset managers, activists are targeting BlackRock, the world’s largest investment fund with over $7 trillion under management. The mobilization will also build off ongoing fossil fuel divestment efforts that are focused on pension funds, university endowments, and other private funds.

“The criminals are the people who are letting this world burn for money.” said Naomi Klein.

A chorus of high-profile voices — scientists, the United Nations, European Central Banks, the IMF — have all sounded the alarm about the role of the finance industry in driving climate destruction, but so far, their calls for action had fallen on deaf ears. Next year’s United Nations Climate Talks will focus on the role of finance, providing a unique opportunity this year to pressure the sector to act.

The Stop the Money Pipeline mobilization has brought together a number of existing campaigns targeting the worst offenders in each part of the financial sector.

And the strategy seems to be working. Existing campaigns have been talking to Liberty Mutual, who on December 12th, 2019 adopted a coal policy in response to public pressure. Liberty Mutual is amongst the world’s top six coal insurers and has $8.9 billion invested in fossil fuel companies and utilities. It is the eighteenth global insurer to adopt restrictions on coal insurance.

“In response to a groundswell of public pressure, Liberty Mutual has taken a first step towards reducing its role in fueling the climate crisis. But the company still lags far behind what the science says is necessary, and does not match best practice among U.S. and global peers.” Rainforest Action Network Energy Finance Campaigner Elana Sulakshana said.

And in a bigger piece of news, on Monday, January 13th, Larry Fink, the CEO of BlackRock, the largest investor of stocks and bonds of fossil fuels, wrote this groundbreaking letter to fellow CEO's in the financial industry. It's a game changer, and a reason to celebrate. In the letter, Fink wrote, 

“Climate change has become a defining factor in [our] companies’ long-term prospects. Last September, when millions of people took to the streets to demand action on climate change, many of them emphasized the significant and lasting impact that it will have on economic growth and prosperity – a risk that markets to date have been slower to reflect. But awareness is rapidly changing, and I believe we are on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance.

The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance. Research from a wide range of organizations – including the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the BlackRock Investment Institute, and many others, including new studies from McKinsey on the socioeconomic implications of physical climate risk – is deepening our understanding of how climate risk will impact both our physical world and the global system that finances economic growth.

Investors are increasingly reckoning with these questions and recognizing that climate risk is investment risk. Indeed, climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock. From Europe to Australia, South America to China, Florida to Oregon, investors are asking how they should modify their portfolios. They are seeking to understand both the physical risks associated with climate change as well as the ways that climate policy will impact prices, costs, and demand across the entire economy.

These questions are driving a profound reassessment of risk and asset values. And because capital markets pull future risk forward, we will see changes in capital allocation more quickly than we see changes to the climate itself. In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

Over the coming months, Stop the Money Pipeline aims to turn up the heat on all of these targets, while also demanding that the government step in to regulate the risk fossil fuel investments are posing to our climate communities. 

Organizations involved in the Stop the Money Pipeline mobilization include Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Sunrise Project, Future Coalition, Divest Ed, Divest-Invest, Native Movement, Giniw Collective, Transition US,, Oil Change International, 350 Seattle, Center for International Environmental Law, Greenpeace, Union of Concerned Scientists, Majority Action, Earth Rights International, The YEARS Project. 

#EndFossilFinance, #StopTheMoneyPipeline, #DefundClimateChange, #StopFundingFossils, #Divest

List of Media Coverage:

Ayako Nagano is Managing Attorney at Midori Law Group in Berkeley, CA. She serves on the Boards of Transition Berkeley and Common Vision, which installs school gardens. Aya sits on the steering committees of the Green Leadership Trust, a coalition of board members of color promoting equity within the Green movement, and the NorCal Resilience Network. Aya is also co-chair of the International Transformational Resilience Coalition in California, working to build widespread levels of psycho-social-spiritual resilience in the age of climate change; serves on the Social Justice Working Group for Transition US; and organizes the Plastic Reduction Working Group at the Ecology Center. She was also recently appointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee.

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