We’ve got big money on our side to challenge fossil fuel financing banks

January 27, 2023
How NYC's new climate shareholder resolutions challenge fossil fuel funding. 
RBC Stop Funding Fossil Fuels Rally

Our work to build momentum for financial institutions to phase out fossil fuel investments and prioritize a climate-safe economy kicked off the new year with a bang, with one of the world’s most powerful institutional investors stepping up.

The New York City Comptroller’s office, which manages the City’s $242.38 billion pension funds, filed a climate shareholder resolution at the Royal Bank of Canada, calling for RBC to set absolute emissions reduction targets for energy and utility clients to be met in 2030.

RBC is one of the largest financiers of fossil fuels in the world, pumping more than $200 billion into coal, oil and gas since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2016.

Comptroller Brad Lander is demonstrating real climate leadership, wielding the funds’ billions of dollars in institutional investor power demanding banks stop financing fossil fuel pollution. He filed similar resolutions at JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, as well as co-filed with the New York State Comptroller’s Office (valued at $265 billion) at Bank of America. 

This latest news means we have big money on our side in the fight against banks refusing to phase down financing of companies that are expanding fossil fuel projects like poisonous tar sands pipelines, fracked gas terminals, and toxic oil wells. New, unnecessary projects risk locking us into decades of fossil fuel use at a time when we need to rapidly scale down.

This action from the New York City Comptroller is exactly the kind of climate leadership institutional investors around the world must take. This is one of the biggest institutional investors in the world stepping forward to challenge banks’ lending and underwriting practices to align with science and justice. 

Why is this such big news? 

Energy and utility companies – think ExxonMobil, Chevron, TC Energy, Enbridge, and more – are the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution in banks’ portfolios, majorly contributing to financing climate destruction. 

While a few banks have announced absolute emissions reduction targets, most are dragging their feet with “intensity-based targets,” which risk resulting in an increase in overall emissions. 

Alongside New York City’s climate resolutions, the Sierra Club Foundation, Harrington, and Trillium Asset Management with the support of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and As You Sow filed resolutions at big U.S. fossil banks calling for an end to financing of fossil fuel expansion and the disclosure of robust transition plans for the banks. 

These resolutions are filed amidst a growing recognition that banks need to cut financing and investing in fossil fuel expansionists and phase down all financing of coal, oil and gas. Banks need to be part of the solution, not further exacerbating the problem. 

Why is New York City filing shareholder resolutions in Canada?

New York City filed the resolution at RBC, in which it has 293,000 shares valued at $28.92 million. Royal Bank of Canada’s awful record on climate change, including continued financing of fossil fuel expansionists, has caught the attention of some of the continent’s biggest and most influential pension plans. RBC is dragging Canada backwards on its climate ambitions. It’s time to cut greenwashed net-zero rhetoric once and for all.

With New York City wielding its institutional investor power, all shareholders must support these climate resolutions at the bank’s AGM this spring. 

Why now?

Over the last few years, the climate finance movement has ramped up confronting fossil banks’ practices during their Annual General Meetings (AGMs) – also referred to as shareholder meetings – historically a day of corporate self-congratulation and greenwashing.

In years past, protest proposals have been the point. Now, as we build power alongside institutional and retail investors, winning on these proposals is on the horizon. 

Royal Bank of Canada kicks off bank shareholder season with its AGM on April 5, 2023 in Saskatchewan.

This is just the start of what is sure to be an intense and exciting shareholder season. It’s up to all of us to wield our intergenerational power to demand banks stop financing dirty fossil energy of the past, and reinvest in climate-safe solutions that put people and planet first. 

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Stand.earth's Climate Finance Program

By examining and challenging the financial sector’s role in propping up fossil fuel companies, Stand.earth's Climate Finance Program plays a critical role in stopping new fossil fuel financing in its tracks, and advancing stronger protections for people and the planet.

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