With each passing year, the number and severity of heatwaves, hurricanes, floods, forest fires and other climate-related disasters is increasing, already disrupting the lives of millions of people.
Despite the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C, the average global temperature is now 1,1 degrees higher than in 1990, with polar areas warming three times as fast and other areas facing ever more extreme heatwaves, opening the very real risk of them becoming uninhabitable.
For the world to still have a two-thirds chance to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C, global greenhouse gas emissions must be brought to net zero by 2050 latest, with over half of that reduction achieved by 2030. The latest IPCC and International Energy Agency reports are both crystal clear that this requires an immediate end to all new fossil fuel exploration and development, and a rapid phase-out of all remaining fossil fuel use.
Other related emergencies
The climate crisis poses a huge threat to nature, with forests being destroyed by wildfires or turning into savannah, tundras and alpine permafrost areas thawing, coral reefs bleaching and oceans getting both warmer and more acidic, thus becoming
uninhabitable for many species while also releasing even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
A warming planet is also expected to face more pandemics. Changing weather patterns, forest fires and other climate-related habitat destruction will set animals on the move, from bats to rodents to mosquitoes, leading to contact between animals and with humans that normally don’t interact, physically bringing together pathogens and potential new hosts.
Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry that is at the heart of the climate crisis also impacts directly on human rights, as it penetrates Indigenous and communal lands for exploration and pollutes water and agricultural land. Even in the global North, its heavily polluting industries disproportionately impact poor, marginalised communities and especially communities of colour. Similarly, low-income and working-class communities disproportionately suffer the consequences of current spiking energy prices, and have less access to energy-saving measures. The welfare of fossil fuel industry workers worldwide must also be at the heart of any just transition towards a green economy.
Banks must play a key role in tackling the climate emergency
Despite all the rhetoric coming from banks committing to become net zero by 2050, trillions of dollars in bank finance still keeps the coal, oil and gas industry that is at the heart of the crisis afloat, and even helps expand it. No climate commitment of any bank is complete without a pledge to urgently phase out
this finance and commit to financing a just transition to a zero-carbon society.
Banks also act as financiers of other high-emitting business sectors, such as steel, cement, petrochemicals, manufacturing, transport, real estate, etc. They must use their leverage over clients to rapidly steer these industries towards zeroing out their emissions, including by providing the finance for this transition.
Finally, banks have a responsibility to address their continued financing of business sectors that impact on natural forests and other ecosystems critical for climate mitigation and adaptation, including agricultural commodities such as soy, sugar, rubber, and beef and timber.
The overall aim of the Banks and Climate campaign is for banks to end their finance for the fossil fuel industry. In order to achieve this, banks must:
- Immediately end all financing for fossil fuel expansion projects and for all companies expanding fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, along the whole fossil fuel value chain.
- Phase out all ongoing financing for fossil fuel projects and companies, on a timeline aligned with limiting global warming to 1.5°C, starting with an immediate end to finance for coal mining and coal power, as well as projects and companies active in tar sands oil, Arctic oil and gas, offshore oil and gas, fracked oil and gas, and LNG.
- Require all their existing clients to publish phase out plans for their fossil fuel activities on a 1.5°C-aligned timeline.
- Commit to zero out the climate impact of their entire finance portfolio before 2050, and to halve this impact by 2030 at the latest, without relying on discredited offset schemes.
- Immediately end all financing for fossil fuel projects and companies that abuse human rights, including Indigenous rights, and;
- Publicly and comprehensively report on all the previous steps.
These demands are set out in more detail in the Global Call on Banks, supported by over 260 organisations around the world They also reflect the ‘Principles for Paris Aligned Financial Institutions’, which were developed collaboratively by 60 NGOs with expertise on fossil fuel financing.