Community Dialogue to Focus on Banks’ Role in Climate Change

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Speakers to weigh social, economic and environmental impacts of coal financing
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BOSTON–Rainforest Action Network (RAN) will present Banks, Climate Justice and the Green Economy tonight at the Democracy Center in Cambridge at 6:30 p.m. The first of several events planned in the Greater Boston area, the dialogue will focus on banks’ responsibility to address climate impacts stemming from financing fossil fuels like coal. Speakers include social justice advocate and business leader Bob Massie, Harvard divestment activist Alli Welton, and Rabbi Margie Klein of Moishe House Boston, among others.

Bank of America, the nation’s largest bank whose top executives are headquartered in Boston, finances more coal-fired utilities and mountain top removal coal mining companies than any other bank in the country. Although it promotes a public image as a leader in environmental sustainability, it directed $6.4 billion toward the US coal industry in the past two years.

“Plain and simple, we cannot solve climate change while the nation’s largest banks prop up the coal industry,” said Vanessa Green, event organizer and campaigner with RAN’s Energy and Finance campaign. “We are coming together as a community to persuade banks to help accelerate the transition to a green economy, by shifting financing away from fossil fuels like coal.”

Long time social justice advocate, Episcopal priest and President of the New Economics Coalition, Bob Massie, known for an institutional divestment campaign to end apartheid in South Africa and founding roles in both Ceres and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), is the keynote speaker.

"During the battle against apartheid in South Africa, students and citizens pressured universities and other institutions to end their support for a cruelly destructive regime. If it was doing business in South Africa, it was also investing in apartheid,” said Massie. “In the face of catastrophic climate change, our banks must be given a similar ultimatum. Are banks endorsing a business model that destroys communities and the planet through fossil fuel investments? Or are they not? It’s as simple as that."

Extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, record heat waves and severe droughts in 2012 have shown us that climate change is not a distant threat, but an urgent issue. Coal is the leading source of climate change pollution and is responsible for more than 170,000 deaths annually.

“Throughout the country, faith leaders and lay people are coming together to insist that banks take responsibility for their role in propelling the desecration of our environment and the impoverishing of our most vulnerable communities," said Rabbi, founder of Moishe Kavod House in Brookline. "This is not just an issue for environmentalists or for activists in poor communities. It is an issue for all of us - as humans, as people of faith, who want to create a society that builds a green economy, treats people with dignity and leaves a better planet for our children."

Other speakers include Environmental Justice Research Collaborative Director Daniel Faber of Northeastern University; New England Director of Clean Water Action Cindy Luppi; and Harvard University sophomore Alli Welton of Students for a Just and Stable Future.

“From Harvard to Bank of America, Boston's financial giants have an ethical obligation to take responsibility for its investments,” said Welton. “By supporting the coal industry through their investments, these institutions are supporting the illness, poverty, and destruction caused by the climate crisis and coal combustion.”

The economic outlook associated with the US coal sector also raises concerns about its financial future. Tightened air quality enforcement led to a record number of coal plant retirements in 2012 and those trends are expected to continue.

"The smart money is on 21st century clean energy technology,” said Luppi. “We expect better judgment from institutions like Bank of America."

 

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org