Across the US, people protested outside major banks on Tuesday, urging financial institutions to switch investments away from fossil fuel companies. In Boston, more than 200 people marched from Chase Bank to a branch of Bank of America. There, a man used a solar-powered chainsaw to cut through giant credit cards from Chase and Bank of America.
One hundred protests took place across the country from Juneau, Alaska to Washington, D.C. to urge banks including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citi to stop funding fossil fuel projects that contribute significantly to human change. climate. Third Act, a largely retired climate change activist group, has hosted nationwide events prior to annual meetings where investors can propose corporate policy changes.
San Francisco climate activists chained themselves to each other outside a Wells Fargo branch in the rain.
In Washington, D.C., protesters sat in rocking chairs outside banks as crowds cheered for people who slashed their credit cards in protest.
Mary McCabe, 61, from the Boston suburb of Arlington, made a poster of her son’s childhood photo to show the face of the younger generation she seeks to protect. According to her, it was the first time she participated in such a demonstration.
“Every day we hear reports on the news that our window to prevent catastrophic damage continues to close, and that indeed this decade is critical for us to take action,” McCabe said.
Third Act co-founder Bill McKibben created the group to take advantage of the life experiences, skills and political power of retirees. And activists also point to their economic clout: Baby boomers own more than half of the US wealth.
“Part of what’s really interesting today [Tuesday] is that this time it’s not just young people who are doing this job,” said McKibben, who was in Washington, DC, for the protests. – In this case, this is important in part because older Americans make up about 70% of the country’s financial assets. So it’s especially fitting that they’re putting pressure on here.”
The message did not escape the notice of 73-year-old Bob Fallansby, who cycled from his home in Dorchester to downtown Boston in half an hour. “I feel that we have an obligation to stand up for future generations and do our best as people who have reached a certain age and have certain resources,” Follansby said. He also said that one of the reasons he left is that his generation is largely responsible for climate change.
The demonstrations came a day after a United Nations report was released showing the world is on track for catastrophic warming. However, according to the report, world leaders already have the tools they need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and save lives. The authors of the report hope it will serve as a guide for political leaders who will meet later this year for international talks on how to limit emissions.
McKibben said the world is facing a “balancing out” as it tries to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the economy. “Unfortunately, tomorrow we are not going to give up oil and gas,” he said. “That’s why we’ve made it very clear that our only requirement is that these guys [banks] stop funding the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.”
Citi, one of the banks where Tuesday’s protests took place, said in an electronic statement that the bank “shares the goal of moving to a low-carbon economy.” The company pointed to efforts to invest in “clean energy solutions through our zero commitment and our $1 trillion sustainable financing commitment.” Citi also stated its commitment to its customers to “support their efforts to decarbonize their business.”
Bank of America, another bank targeted by climate change activists, declined to comment.
Eric Compton, a banking analyst at financial firm Morningstar, said he was not aware of cases where protests like the Third Act had influenced bank decision making. “Usually you need acts [C]congress or much stronger political/branding pressure,” Compton wrote in an email.
“In the past, banks have also rejected shareholder decisions that have limited fossil fuel funding,” Compton said. “At the end of the day, banks cater to a complex set of interests and voters, so it is difficult to achieve wide-ranging change through the demands of a select group of voters.”
However, McKibben remains hopeful. “We had conversations with the leaders of several of them. [banks] who reached out because they know what’s going on,” he said. “But I think it will take a lot of work to really get them to change.”
The third act garnered about 17,000 pledges from people who said they would close accounts and cut credit cards if banks continued to support fossil fuels. The organization said in a press release that those pledges were passed on to bank executives at branches across the United States.
Paula Moura (@PaulaMoura_san) is a climate and environmental reporter for NPR radio station WBUR in Boston, from where she reported.
Seima Bayram of the NPR; Anna Kanni, reporter for member station KTOO; and Christopher Alam, a reporter for member station KQED, contributed to the story.