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1 April 2022

Banks are pouring billions into fossil fuels despite green pledges

In 2021 the world’s 60 largest lenders provided $742bn to fossil fuel companies.

By Polly Bindman

Banks show little sign of reducing their financing of fossil fuels despite their commitments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, according to data from the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

In 2021 the world’s 60 largest lenders provided $742bn to fossil fuel companies, bringing the total to $4.6trn in the six years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change. 

The figures are presented in the RAN’s annual assessment of banks’ fossil fuel financing activities, which weights each transaction according to how much of a company’s operations are dedicated to each fossil fuel subsector -- such as coal power, or Arctic oil and gas. 

While total financing in 2021 was slightly lower than it was in 2020, the annual figures show an overall increase since 2016. As 44 of the 60 banks analysed have now made pledges to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, the RAN claims they are “patting themselves on the back while delaying serious climate action”. 

Overall fossil fuel financing remains dominated by four American banks: JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo and Bank of America. While a number of banks have implemented policies restricting their financing of coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel, a large majority of the funding in 2021 (67 per cent) went to oil and gas firms. JPMorgan, for example, was the largest Western financier of Russian state oil major Gazprom over the past six years. 

Aside from one French bank, La Banque Postale, none of the banks committing to net zero by 2050 have ruled out financing for companies expanding their oil and gas operations. 

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