Big banks are funding climate chaos but Rainforest Action Network is fighting back

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There are parts of India, the country where I’m from, that are questioning whether or not humans can survive there anymore because of the weather. In the summer of 2022, heatwaves killed 61,600 people in Europe. In the summer of 2023, going outside for a day in my current home of Washington, D.C., was like inhaling 22 cigarettes because of the Canadian wildfire smoke. Over 20 million acres of wild lands were burning there, 21 times more than the average this decade.

Also last summer, 100 million people in the U.S. were under heat advisories, as dangerous weather burned crops, delivered killing heat strokes and caused power grid failures as people tried to stay cool running their air conditioners all night long. This was on top of the disasters of fire and flood. Death Valley, in California, experienced the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the planet, which also happened in 2020 and 2021.

These events are not random, they’re clearly linked to climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels. World scientists have issued dire warnings yet fossil fuel companies expand supply, making record profits — and big banks help them. Since the Paris Agreement was signed, banks have poured $5.5 trillion of financing into fossil fuel companies. Last year, banks pumped $669 billion of cash into fossil fuel companies while thousands of people died from flooding in Nigeria, India and Pakistan, in addition to the tens of thousands of people who died in the European heatwave.

One of the worst sources of climate chaos isn’t coal or oil. It’s methane gas — rebranded in recent decades by the industry as liquified natural gas (LNG). What is called LNG is mostly methane, a gas that has 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide. Not only is methane gas a dangerous climate pollutant, it is also a bad business bet. It faces a money-losing glut amid competition from renewables: Europe is aiming to have 45% of its energy from renewables by 2030 and Asian environmental organizations like CEED Philippines reject the idea that their region must switch from coal to gas and then to renewables. Instead, they present the proof that renewables can — and must — scale now.

A methane gas pipeline explodes every two days in the U.S., on average. The build-out of methane gas facilities is also happening in Black, Brown and Indigenous communities in the Gulf South that have for decades been dealing with the toxic impacts of petrochemicals. Methane gas is not a transition fuel, it is a fossil fuel that we cannot afford to expand.

Despite the deaths and explosions, banks continue to fund this fossil fuel, with 25-plus export projects being proposed in the U.S. Gulf alone, up from the four currently operating. One of the most dangerous facilities — the Rio Grande Valley Project by NextDecade — just announced that due to support from banks like JP Morgan Chase it has enough financing, despite French banks pulling out. JP Morgan Chase has showered the methane gas sector with $8 billion since the Paris Agreement.

While the Esto’k Gna people of the Comecrudo Carrizo Tribe in Brownsville, Texas, can’t go outside because of the heat, they are fighting to stop this project on their sacred ancestral lands, which are also at risk of falling debris from SpaceX explosions. Yet banks and the government decided that a methane gas project that’s 984 acres and bigger than New York City’s Central Park should be built on the last deepwater port that is free from oil and petrochemical shipping on the Texas Gulf coast.

How many people have to die before banks understand that no more fossil fuel projects can be funded? When will they heed the world’s call for financing for climate mitigation, transition and adaptation instead of fossil fuel foolishness? What 1,000-year storm, flood or fire will happen before they move as fast as the world needs them to? How many times will they be complicit in violating Indigenous sovereignty and human rights before listening to the people who are dying from the heat and extreme weather?

Banks must urgently realign their financing toward a future that doesn’t kill tens of thousands of people all over the globe and put a third of the U.S. under a death wave of heat. They should first stop financing any fossil fuel expansion, especially deceptive methane gas projects. They should instead be part of the solution and finance the renewables the world needs to survive.

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