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Going Backward in Trump Era, Big Bank Investment in World’s Dirtiest Energy Projects Surged in 2017

The tar sands sector received major support from banks last year.

Going backward in the era of Trump — and despite international efforts to curb the climate crisis by reducing carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels — a new study out Wednesday details how major banks invested heavily in the world’s dirtiest energy sectors in 2017, pouring $115 billion into tar sands, offshore oil drilling, and coal mining projects.

“Every single dollar that these banks provide for the expansion of the fossil fuel industry is a dollar going to increase the climate crisis,” said Stephen Kretzmann of Oil Change International, one of the groups behind the study (pdf).

The findings of the report — entitled “Banking on Climate Change” — were described by author and activist Naomi Klein as “terrifying.”

Until they end their funding of dirty energy, Kretzmann added, “these banks will be complicit in our climate catastrophe, plain and simple.”

Institutions including JP Morgan Chase, TD Bank, and Bank of America increased their funding of dirty energy by 11 percent from 2016 to 2017, flouting the Paris Climate Agreement.

The tar sands sector, known as the dirtiest source of energy on the planet, received major support from banks last year, with financing going up by 111 percent to $98 billion. JP Morgan Chase quadrupled its funding of the industry, a year after researchers found tar sands operations were a major cause of pollution.

Environmental campaigners also denounced banks for their support of industries that have caused destruction to communities by building pipelines with no regard for citizens’ homes and human rights. Dirty energy projects funded by financial institutions in 2017 included the Line 3 Tar Sands pipeline proposed by Enbridge, which TD Bank, Citibank, Royal Bank of Canada, and MUFBGall invest in; and new coal plants expected to be build across Southeast Asia, bankrolled by Mizuho, MUFG, and SMFG.

“These banks fund the projects that are killing the planet, destroying indigenous sacred sites, and violating the human rights of citizens,” said Tara Houska of Honor the Earth. “The financial industry is on notice — the human rights policies banks claim are in place must be enforced. Stop funding fossil fuels and move into a green economy.”

While major banks have continued funneling money into planet-killing energy projects, the report noted, the World Bank announced last year it would cease funding of oil and gas extraction after 2019. Last fall, the Norwegian government announced it would divest its sovereign wealth fund — the largest in the world — of all its oil and gas shares.

“It is not surprising that we see the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund managers no longer prepared to take the increasing risk associated with oil and gas assets, which do not have a long-term future,” said Paul Fisher of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, when Norway made its announcement.

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