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Claim: ‘Switching your bank might help slow the climate crisis’

By Ula Chrobak

Fossil fuel companies rely to a surprising extent on funding from banks—funding that comes, in part, from ordinary people’s bank accounts. And that means the bank you choose helps determine if those big energy companies can get financing.

That’s the argument increasingly put forth by climate scientists and activists looking to put an end to the continued extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas. One way to do that is to put pressure on the big banks that make those operations possible in the first place.

According to the Rainforest Action Network’s Banking on Climate Change report, 35 banks from Canada, China, Europe, Japan and the United States financed a total of $2.7 trillion toward 2,100 fossil fuel companies in the four years following the 2016 adoption of the Paris climate agreement. American banks top the list: JPMorgan Chase had the greatest contribution, followed by Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America. Some of the activities that the financing contributed to include controversial projects such as mining tar sands oil, tapping offshore reserves, and fracking.

“The carbon budget leaves no room for new fossil fuel extraction or infrastructure, and yet JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and Bank of America have led funding to these top expansion companies, with overall bank financing to these companies on the rise last year,” write the authors of the Banking on Climate Change report. To change this status quo, activists have tried to put pressure on banks to start restricting who they finance.

“I suspect that the key to disrupting the flow of carbon into the atmosphere may lie in disrupting the flow of money to coal and oil and gas.” wrote Bill McKibben, author and founder of, in a 2019 New Yorker article, adding that “it’s both simple and powerful to switch your bank account: local credit unions and small-town banks are unlikely to be invested in fossil fuels.”