Pages tagged "bankofamerica"


Mountains, Water and Community

Last week, Rainforest Action Network and three allies testified at Bank of America's annual shareholder meeting, urging them to drop coal, to stop profiting from environmental destruction and human rights abuses. In the next two weeks, we'll be posting the statements of our three allies. Add your voice by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal --  and come clean on climate change

My name is Elise Keaton. I am the Executive Director of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation and I am from southern West Virginia. I currently live in Charleston, West Virginia. I am here today to ask you to please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community.

On January 9 of this year, I came home from work, poured a big glass of water from my tap and drank it. As soon as I set my glass down I received a text message from my landlord stating, “Don’t drink the water! There has been a chemical leak!

Over the next hours, I experienced acute symptoms from exposure to the coal-processing chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), including irritated eyes, nose and throat, nausea, and stomach cramps. If the spill had been immediately lethal, I thought, the authorities would have sounded the chemical valley alarms. So I monitored my symptoms and concluded that I did not need to go to the emergency room that night. I figured that the next day, we would know more about what had happened.

What we learned over the next week was that a Freedom Industries facility storing coal-processing chemicals leaked MCHM into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water for 300,000 households. The first question a thinking human being should ask is, “Why are 300,000 households, spread across nine counties in a rural state like West Virginia on a single water source in the city of Charleston?” MTRQuote_720x720

The answer is: their local water sources have already been compromised by the mining industry. Their streams and springs have been destroyed or buried by mountaintop removal. Their wells have been compromised by blasting or polluted by coal slurry injections.

And instead of addressing the sources of this pollution, the political-industrial establishment in West Virginia decided that your quarterly profits were more important than clean water for our communities and they answered that loss of water by extending the municipal water source further and further out into those counties.

Four months later, we still lack access to guaranteed safe drinking water in West Virginia. Our esteemed congresspeople have insisted that they are drinking the water. But no public health official has declared the water safe to drink.

I am 34 years old and I am getting married this summer. I've waited a long time to start my family. Now, I have postponed my plans to have children indefinitely because no one can tell me the impact MCHM may have had on me and my reproductive ability.

I am here today to ask you to please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community. The minuscule profits you received as a result of mountaintop removal mining are incomparable to the catastrophic damage caused by the practice. It is killing us.

More than 20 peer-reviewed health studies have shown that living near mountaintop removal sites is deadly for the people of Appalachia. Please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and my community.

I will close with this: when you remove coal by blowing up a mountain to extract it you have destroyed a “water maker” for the equivalent of one hour’s worth of electricity for the United States. Let me repeat that. When you extract coal by mountaintop removal you kill a resource that will make water forever -- for the equivalent of one hour’s worth of energy for the U.S. How is that a good investment?

As shareholders of one of the largest financial institutions in the world, you are savvy investors and business minded individuals. How is destroying the mountains that create clean water for a very small, short term financial benefit a good investment? Please stop financing the destruction of our mountains, our water and our communities. Your profits from mountaintop removal mean death for us.

Thank you.

Stand with Elise and RAN by telling Bank of America to stop funding coal --  and come clean on climate change


Did You Hear The One About The Bank That Couldn't Count?

BoA_ActionLast week, Bank of America (BofA) admitted a huge accounting error—for several years, it claimed a whopping $4 billion more in capital than it actually has. The day BofA announced its blunder, its shares closed down more than six percent, the stock’s biggest drop in two years.

But BofA had to come clean. Regulators, shareholders and consumers need an accurate picture of banks' balance sheets.

BofA’s admission gives us a rare chance to raise a far bigger question: What else are they hiding?

It's time for BofA to be transparent about something much more vital to the future of the planet: just how much its investments contribute to climate change.

Tell Bank of America: Come clean on funding climate change!

I'm writing to you from BofA's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I'm about to speak in support of a crucial shareholder resolution. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility—backed by investors worth almost $35 billion—is pushing the bank to report on how much carbon pollution gets spewed into the atmosphere by the companies it funds.

BofA is a top funder of the biggest drivers of climate change: coal, oil, and gas corporations, as well as carbon–intensive electricity producers. But it's refusing to report on its financed carbon emissions. BofA knows that opening its books will create pressure to cut emissions by moving away from fossil fuels.

Now is the time to push BofA on climate change. Last week's accounting revelations were a big black eye, and at today's AGM, the bank needs to reassure its shareholders and customers that it doesn't have billions of dollars of climate liabilities on its books.

We need you to add your voice: Tell Bank of America to come clean on climate accounting!

Pushing for transparency is just the first step. We're also calling on BofA to cut its carbon pollution by stopping funding coal, the top contributor to climate change. I'll be making that call here at the AGM in just a few minutes, and ally organizations will speak to coal's cost beyond climate: mountains with their tops blown off in West Virginia, rivers wrecked by coal ash here in North Carolina, and human rights abuses by coal company security forces in Colombia.

Will you stand with us? Tell BofA that today's the day to come clean on funding climate change—and to cut its emissions by ending coal financing.


Extreme Coal - No Longer Business as Usual

Extreme Investments

For the first time since we began publishing coal finance report cards five years ago, we have an encouraging trend to report: Major banks have begun making noise about the growing financial risk associated with climate change—and specifically associated with coal, the top global contributor to carbon pollution.

On top of that, major banks have begun to cut ties with the biggest mountaintop removal (MTR) coal companies. This progress has exposed a growing gap between banks that are still sinking billions into coal, and those that are cutting ties with the worst-of-the-worst in the coal industry.

Today, RAN, the Sierra Club, and BankTrack released our 2014 Coal Finance Report Card, “Extreme Investments, Extreme Consequences,” which grades U.S. banks on their performance and policies related to coal-fired power and mountaintop removal coal mining. We also uncovered the top financiers of contentious coal export schemes like those in the Pacific Northwest and coal trains that transport dusty coal across the United States.

All told, banks sank over $31 billion into the worst companies in the coal industry last year, with $6.5 billion coming from Citigroup, the top funder of coal-fired power. However, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo began to phase out financing for MTR, earning our first ever “B” grades, and marking a positive trend away from the extreme mining practice.

Meanwhile, UK-based Barclays increased its exposure to MTR, financing $550 million for mountaintop removal coal companies last year, more than any other bank.

Environmental damage from mining, transporting, and burning coal—including health hazards like air pollution and water contamination from spills—doesn’t just harm communities and the environment, it costs banks money. In the report card, we highlight examples of this in case studies about the rising cost of clean-up for water contamination at mine sites, increases in coal company bankruptcies, and money-losing coal-fired power plants.

Download the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card

Download the 2014 Coal Finance Report Card.

The report comes on the heels of analyst publications from Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Citigroup last year, each of which challenged the case for continued investment in the coal industry. These and other banks have acknowledged that power plant regulations, a potential price on carbon, and competition from renewable energy sources could “strand” assets such as coal mining, transport, and power generation facilities. With billions of dollars in loans on the line, it’s not a question of if climate risk will translate into financial risk, but when.

Ironically, these very same banks maintain deep financial ties to the riskiest and most environmentally destructive companies in the U.S. coal industry. As credit ratings for some coal mining companies sank farther below investment grade last year, banks continued to place bets on risky loans to the sector.

The report card warns banks that before the carbon bubble bursts onto their balance sheets, it will irreversibly destabilize the climate. So while we are happy to report that a few banks took the first steps to cut off financing to the worst-of-the-worst of the coal industry, the banking industry as a whole must now cut its losses and forge a path away from coal, before it’s too late for both them and us.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Barclays, the number one banker of mountaintop removal, to end its support of destroying mountains and poisoning communities for coal.


5 Ways Our Network Is Saving the Planet

nokxl sf vigilDear friends, Early in the New Year, I received a text concerning my two nieces that read, “We are all safe but leaving town—state of Emergency declared in Charleston as a result of coal chemical spilled into river.” Although I’m very aware of the impacts coal has on the health of people and planet, the reality of it hitting so close to home has me more fired up than ever about the work Rainforest Action Network has to do this year. So far the chemical spill in West Virginia is a story about a completely preventable accident, but it’s my belief that it will also be a story of organizing, resisting corporate control and bringing the end of coal even closer. It was a spill that happened just weeks before the release of the State Department’s final environmental assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline which gives President Obama all the room he needs to prevent the disasters that we will see should he approve the Keystone XL pipeline. I believe in my core that the only way we can tackle the challenges we face is by fully leveraging our entire network. This year, I’m committed and excited to share RAN’s thinking, listen to your input and find ways for you to engage more deeply in our work. In 2014 we will work harder than ever to keep fossil fuels in the ground, forests standing and communities thriving. This year we are resolved to focus on five key areas that are vital for our planet: 1) Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline We will not accept the development of a pipeline that threatens to lock in an estimated one billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over its lifetime. Last year, RAN teamed up with CREDO and The Other 98% to launch the “Pledge of Resistance,” making clear their opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. To date, over 76,000 people have pledged to take peaceful direct action in their communities to resist the Keystone XL pipeline, and RAN has helped to train and build a community of hundreds of action leaders across the country.  And it doesn’t end with President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. At RAN we believe this level of engagement must be the new norm for our movement to ensure that not only do we stop this project, but that we are prepared to stop dirty energy projects that would follow. 2)   Remove Conflict Palm Oil from our Food In rainforests half a world away, orangutans are making their last stand against extinction — scientists believe that they could be extinct in the wild in our lifetime. But the threat to their survival lies much closer to home. You’ll find it hidden in the snack food aisle of your local grocery store — and in your shopping cart. To grow cheap palm oil, America’s snack food brands are driving the last wild orangutans to extinction, enslaving children and destroying rainforests that are critical to maintaining a stable climate. As thoughtful consumers, we have the power to make them listen. Our strategy is working. This year we will continue negotiating with consumer brand companies to develop or improve palm oil procurement policies for 100% traceable and responsible palm oil and will continue to push for improvements from the largest U.S importer of palm oil, Cargill. Every time we sign a petition or sticker foods that contain Conflict Palm Oil, we bring more attention to this incredibly important issue, and we give more power to our movement. 3)   Challenge Bank of America to Stop Financing Climate Change. The five largest American banks are among the most significant global underwriters of the coal industry, and therefore global climate change emissions. In spite of the human and environmental costs of coal as well as the growing financial risks associated with investments in the coal industry, Bank of America alone has invested billions and maintained its position as the largest funder of coal. Bank of America and other U.S. banks have been slow to address this risk, lagging behind their European counterparts. We will work to pressure banks to account for their financed emissions by adopting climate policies at least as strong as the European banks. This autumn, we worked with students on 35 campuses to challenge Bank of America graduate recruitment programs. Hundreds of students showed up at 65 information sessions and interviews to declare, “We won’t work for climate chaos.” Now that we have the bank’s attention, we’re working to improve its policies and move funding away from climate-destroying enterprises. 4)   End the Use of Paper Made from Rainforests Last year, one of the largest paper companies in the world, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) released its rainforest protection commitments, a major first step for a company that has a history of destructive practices when it comes to rainforests and human rights. Over the past year, RAN has helped to strengthen APP’s commitments while working with groups on the ground to make sure that implementation is happening in the forest. While a policy on paper is an important step, we are working to make sure that the bulldozers remain idle and communities are given a voice in decisions about their lands. Until APP implements changes that can guarantee rainforests and communities are protected, we will use our market leverage to ensure large corporate customers understand that it is too soon to resume business with APP. 5)   Provide Small Grants to Local Communities Fighting for the Planet Over the past ten years, RAN’s Small Grants program has distributed more than a million dollars to Indigenous-led and local grassroots organizations to help secure protection for millions of acres of traditional territory in forests around the world and to help defend their communities and their environment from the fossil fuel industry. In 2014 we hope to expand our Small Grants program and increase the amount of money going directly to communities. This year our goal is to distribute $173,000 to communities fighting to defend our planet. At RAN we know we need to set ever-more audacious goals if we’re going to advocate for forests, the climate and communities. Which is why I’m asking you to join us on our ambitious journey into 2014, because we can’t accomplish any of these things without your support.  Visit our Take Action page to learn more about how you can be a part of this important movement. You are the Network that gives me strength to sit across the table from CEOs of corporate giants like Bank of America and Cargill and demand more than modest or incremental changes. This is the time for bold action, and I’m drawing you closer because you’re crucial to us accomplishing what is necessary for forests, people and planet. Now that I’ve shared what I want to fight for in 2014, I’d like to ask you to share what you are committed to doing for people and planet this year. Tweet me your ideas at @lrallen. I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that lie ahead of us this year, and am honored to be on this journey with you. For people and planet in 2014, Lindsey

Investor Summit: Bank of America puts our Climate at Risk

RAN-Bank-of-America-re-nameThis post is by Yann Louvel, BankTrack Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator.

Earlier this month, Bank of America participated in the 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk as the “convening sponsor” of the event. While there was a lot of talk about the urgency of the problem of tackling climate change, there were a few things the bank didn’t talk about. For starters, their role in financing the coal industry.

The 2014 Investor Summit on Climate Risk took place at the United Nations in New York on January 14th. Among the speakers was Lisa Carnoy, Head of Global Capital Markets for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, whose bio tells us that she “leads 700 Capital Markets professionals across Equity Capital Markets, Debt Capital Markets, Leveraged Finance and Origination of Corporate Derivatives and FX across the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Emerging Markets.”

If the bank’s finance for fossil fuels wasn’t mentioned at all, what do you think Carnoy did talk about in her speech? You may be pleased to hear that she conveyed the great imperative felt by the banking sector on climate change. Bank of America’s approach to the issue would be “like a hockey team: we’re fierce, we’re fast, and we feel the urgency.” What’s more, the banking sector as a whole was coming together to “put aside its natural competitiveness,” because “this is incredibly important, the time is now, and we need to work together.”

Great! So how had this fierce, fast hockey team come together to tackle climate change? The one initiative Carnoy presented was the Green Bonds Principles, a set of voluntary guidelines for how banks can develop and issue bonds to support green industries, which she implored investors to get behind.

While we support any efforts to scale up finance for genuine alternatives to fossil fuels, Bank of America’s backing for green bonds is dwarfed by the activities that Carnoy did not talk about. These are the activities that we have been exploring in our most recent reports: its finance for the coal sector. Bank of America was ranked the number three “climate killer bank” worldwide in the BankTrack network’s 2011 Bankrolling Climate Change report, which covered investments in 70 of the largest coal companies between 2005 and 2011. And in BankTrack’s more recent Banking on Coal report, Bank of America again ranked world number three, this time in its finance for coal mining, based on an analysis of finance for 70 coal mining companies worldwide.

Among the deals Carnoy did not talk about are some (not remotely green) bonds issued by her Capital Markets team over the last two years, which helped to raise over $1 billion for Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal. These companies are pure-play US coal miners, and are being targeted by campaigners for their involvement in destructive mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. These bonds are toxic for our climate as well as for the investors who buy them, spreading climate risk through the financial markets in the form of potential future “stranded assets.”

While Bank of America is asking investors to back the Green Bonds Principles, it is investors who should be asking Bank of America to stop feeding them with these financially risky climate killer bonds. And now that Bank of America feels the “urgency” and “imperative” of tackling climate change, it would do well to stop financing climate change through issuing bonds for coal mining.

It is time for banks to come together, put aside their natural competitiveness, and agree to stop financing coal. Because this is incredibly important. The time is now.


Banking on Coal: New BankTrack Report Highlights Bank Complicity in Global Coal Mining Boom

banking on coal “Most innovative investment bank for climate change.” – Citigroup “Mak(ing) your life greener and help(ing) tackle climate change.” – Morgan Stanley “Financing a low carbon economy.” – Bank of America When banks tout slogans such as these, you might expect them to mean that they plan to phase out financing for coal, the single largest source of global climate emissions. Unfortunately, these and other banks are doing the opposite, as a new report from the BankTrack network and RAN found. Since 2005, the year the Kyoto Protocol came into force, bank financing for coal mining companies increased by 397 percent. This surge in bank financing for coal is not just hypocritical, it’s also insane: Leading scientific, policy, and civil society institutions around the world have concluded that burning more than 20% of existing global coal reserves would lock in catastrophic climate change. The BankTrack report, entitled "Banking on Coal," was released at the COP 19 climate conference in Warsaw, Poland and also found that global coal production has grown by 69 percent since 2000 and has now reached 7.9 billion tons annually. The future of coal was a front-and-center issue at COP 19 and at a simultaneous coal industry conference held in Warsaw this month. In a speech at the World Coal Conference, Christiana Figueres, the chair of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told attendees that any responsible future for the global coal industry must involve “leav(ing) most existing reserves in the ground.” The finance industry has played a key role in the recent global coal boom: In the past eight years, 89 commercial banks provided $158 billion in financing to the world’s largest and most destructive mining companies. Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Bank of America—the very same banks that mouth the sustainability slogans mentioned above—topped the list of coal-financing banks, providing $9.76 billion, $9.69 billion, and $8.79 billion, respectively. The report also highlights coal production “hot spots” on six continents where coal extraction has had especially devastating impacts on communities, ecosystems, or human health. Building on research from BankTrack member organizations around the globe, the report highlights the destructive impacts that coal mining is having on India’s last tiger forests, on Appalachian communities in the U.S., and on scarce water resources in South Africa. Banks are not alone in their climate hypocrisy. For example, the Government of Poland touted its commitment to powering the country with coal even as it played host to the COP 19 climate conference. But despite stiff competition from governments of Poland and other emissions-intensive countries, the degree to which major global banks are complicit in the worst coal mining projects around the world is staggering. Fortunately, bank hypocrisy on coal doesn’t work like it used to. Students certainly aren’t fooled, as campus groups across the U.S. have disrupted over 50 Bank of America and Citigroup recruitment sessions this fall over the leading role these banks play in financing the coal industry. Globally, the climate movement is becoming stronger by the day and has attracted growing support from within the financial industry, leaving the banks highlighted in the report increasingly isolated in their support for a coal-fired future.

Thank You

You know what I’m thankful for this year? You. Everything RAN has accomplished this past year is thanks to you. Please don't think for a second that I'm just saying that. RAN’s people-powered campaigns literally cannot be won without you. Corporate decision-makers can destroy our planet with impunity if no one calls them out—but you not only call them out, you demand accountability. And that really does make such a huge difference. Without you, we can’t protect forests, defend human rights, or move this country past fossil fuels. So the RAN team put together this video to say thank you and show you the incredible power of the network you are an integral part of. (You might even see yourself in it!) [youtube bZPPO_hB54k 550] Here is a short but by no means comprehensive list of what you achieved this year:
  • You made “Conflict Palm Oil” an international issue discussed in the pages of the New York Times, Businessweek and The Guardian.
  • You made it possible for more than 76,000 people to get the training and resources they need to take peaceful direct action and demand President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
  • By sending nearly 12,000 emails, you convinced the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to sit down with community members from Papua New Guinea and mediate their dispute with KLK, a notorious forest-destroyer and labor rights abuser.
  • You sent over 18,000 emails to Bank of America and Goldman Sachs calling them out for funding Coal India, a company that has been tied to numerous environmental violations. Thanks to you, BofA and Goldman Sachs were forced to go back to Coal India and wring environmental concessions from the company before proceeding.
  • More than 25,000 of you called out Cargill for its ties to a palm plantation that uses forced and child labor.
  • And the truth about Conflict Palm Oil is currently being broadcast from a Jumbo-Tron in Times Square and has been viewed on YouTube almost half-a-million times.
I also have to offer my sincerest, most heartfelt thanks to you for standing with us during one of the hardest periods in RAN’s history. When Becky Tarbotton—our friend, leader, and executive director—died unexpectedly last December, it was your support, your love, your belief in our core purpose and the importance of our role in the world that helped us get through it. Even when our hearts were broken and things seemed impossibly dark, we were able to come together and persevere. I honestly can’t think of a more fitting tribute to Becky than this past year—one of the most successful years in RAN history. Hope you enjoy the video we made for you. Thank you for everything you're doing. You are making an incredible difference.

Heads Up, Big Banks: The Divestment Movement is Coming for You

This post is cross-posted from WeArePowerShift, and was authored by Harry Alper, a 2011 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and organizer with Rainforest Action Network. It’s May 2013, and Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is having a bad day. Moynihan is presiding over his bank’s annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, a gathering he’d hoped would go according to plan after Bank of America’s 2012 shareholder meeting was besieged by thousands of protestors. But where Moynihan expected to find a crowd of obedient shareholders, he’s met by outraged doctors, faith leaders, frontline community members, and students who have come to demand that Bank of America stop bankrolling coal, climate change, and mountaintop removal. Exasperated, Moynihan pleads, “Is there anyone out there who has a question that isn't about climate change?” Poor Brian Moynihan is going to have to hear about climate change for a long time, and while he may not have realized back in May, he was addressing representatives of the fastest growing segment of the U.S. climate movement: student divestment campaigners. Minutes after Moynihan asked to shut climate out of his shareholder meeting, a delegation of student climate activists delivered a stunning announcement: “We and students at 80 other colleges and universities have pledged to disrupt your recruitment sessions on our campuses until you commit to phasing out your loans to the coal industry.” Incredulous, Bank of America’s board members began to talk nervously amongst themselves; several turned around in their seats to stare down the students. [caption id="attachment_22233" align="alignleft" width="518"]Cal UC Berkeley students outside Bank of America interviews[/caption] Flash forward to October 2013, and it’s clear that the students weren’t kidding around; Bank of America has developed a major problem in on-campus recruitment across the country.  Over the course of this fall semester, student climate activists and divestment campaigners have relentlessly targeted career fairs, interviews, and informational sessions organized by Bank of America and Citi, the two largest funders of the U.S. coal industry. It’s hardly surprising that a movement focused on eliminating financial support for the fossil fuel industry would find an adversary in Wall Street; Bank of America and Citi pumped a combined $263 billion into fossil fuel companies since 2010. Student opposition to this lending is off to a ferocious start: at the time of this writing, students on more than twenty campuses have mobilized to bring the climate crises to the banks, and the divestment movement has made its power felt at nearly thirty campus recruitment events since September. This effort represents a significant expansion in the power and sophistication of student divestment networks. By coordinating sustained action across campuses and over several weeks, divestment activists are exploring new avenues to power, and uniting their local brush fires into a formidable blaze that is licking at Wall Street’s credibility. Sign up here to join the effort and put Bank of America and Citi on notice. On the eve of Power Shift 2013, where 10,000 student climate activists will gather in Pittsburgh to strategize and compare notes, Bank of America and Citi would be wise to move quickly to sever their financial relationships with big coal. Campus outrage over fossil fuel funding is growing, and banks ignore or underestimate the divestment movement at their own peril. Take heed fossil fuel funding banks: you’ve been warned.

//www.youtube.com/embed/Q09yCvs5-XA


Divestors Take Their Fight to Big Banks

Cross-posted from Fossil Free blog. This post was written by Hannah Jones, Swarthmore Mountain Justice alumna. If you’re reading this, you already know: we’re living in a time of unprecedented climate activism. Yet even as student divestment campaigns command the attention of the president and major newspapers, many campuses are hearing disappointing noises from their campus administrations: “no.” In this moment where some may feel uncertain, I’m more excited than ever to see how the campus divestment movement will build. [caption id="attachment_22212" align="alignleft" width="300"]Hannah Jones Hannah Jones[/caption] I’ve spent the past three years pouring my heart and soul into working on fossil fuel divestment. As a student, I joined fellow students to visit organizers in West Virginia who were fighting mountaintop removal coal mining. When we heard about their struggle, we knew we had to take action, and launched one of the earliest fossil fuel divestment campaigns. Over two years, our campaign organized street theater, banner drops, petition drives, and negotiated with the Board of Managers. Since graduating in 2012, I have continued to support divestment nationally because I see tremendous potential in this movement. I see its potential to build strong leaders who are in this fight for the long haul, its potential to escalate on our campuses to win on divestment, and its potential to pool our power and make change beyond campus. Now our movement is developing the power to challenge corporate interests on new fronts. In fact, we are uniquely suited to challenge another pillar of the dirty energy economy: big banks. Students on campuses all over the country are taking action to tell big banks the same thing they are telling their Boards: students will not allow these institutions to bankroll climate destruction. I’m working with Rainforest Action Network this fall to leverage student power and build pressure on Bank of America and Citibank, the largest funders of the U.S. coal industry. We are demanding that these banks stop funding coal and mountaintop removal, and begin to include reduce the carbon emissions associated with their lending. Students are uniquely positioned to make banks move. Banks pour huge amounts of resources and energy into cultivating a good image with students. Over the course of their banking life, a single young person can be worth close to $2 million to a bank. Additionally, banks want to recruit the “best and the brightest” to work for them. When it comes down to it, banks can’t work without us, which gives us power. Students are also using bank-targeted action to strengthen campus divestment campaigns. In confronting banks, students are practicing taking direct action, and sending a message to university Boards that students are capable of mobilizing and taking action. Some students are using these actions to recruit new members through high-impact actions that help new activists feel their power. [caption id="attachment_22213" align="alignleft" width="398"]Washington University in St. Louis confronts Bank of America Washington University in St. Louis confronts Bank of America[/caption] By wielding the divestment movement’s power against the worst coal funders in the world, we can build and strengthen our local campaigns while cutting the financial legs out from under the fossil fuel industry. That is why I am asking the divestment movement to join me and call on Bank of America and Citi to stop financing climate chaos. The divestment movement has accomplished so much in the past year. We have gotten national news coverage, we have gotten the attention of policy-makers and industry executives, we have built up a mass of students who are taking actions on their campuses. As we take action to hold our Boards and banks accountable, we can keep challenging ourselves to think about what else we can do with this power. What other struggles can we ally with? Where else can we make change? Our power is in the possibilities.

Reportback: Divestmentment Students Pay Brian Moynihan a Visit

divestThis is a guest blog by students Camila Bustos (Brown University) and Alli Welton (Harvard University).

Earlier this month, we traveled from our universities in New England down to Charlotte, NC to attend Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting with Rainforest Action Network. At the end of the school year, the trip meant skipping exams and ignoring final paper deadlines that would come back to bite us later--but we knew it was worth it. The meeting gave us the opportunity to look straight into the eyes of a person who has the power to cripple the coal industry: Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan--and ask him to help us.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Moynihan prided himself on the Bank’s $50 billion commitment to the environment. Later on that morning, however, we witnessed Mr. Moynihan dodge question after question regarding the Bank’s role as the number one lender to the coal industry.

Frontline community members spoke up with devastating stories about the cancers their community had struggled with in the shadow of coal-fired power plants, the threats to their homes and drinking water posed by new strip mines and coal export terminals. Religious leaders reminded Moynihan of his moral conscience and his responsibility to other inhabitants of this earth. Many speakers pointed out the contradiction between Bank of America’s environmental commitment and its coal financing policies. Other shareholders at the meeting heard our voices, and began mentioning climate change within their own questions about other topics such as the Bank’s foreclosure practices, executive pay, or campaign contribution disclosures. Mr. Moynihan was clearly uncomfortable when faced with the people directly impacted by his Bank’s support of the coal industry, but he dismissed most of their questions.

At the end of the meeting, it was our turn to speak. We could tell that, by this point, Mr. Moynihan had heard enough about climate change. We brought a message with us, however, that he had not heard:

“Students are tremendously concerned about climate change, and we do NOT want to work for companies like Bank of America if they are funding our destruction. We and students at 80 other colleges and universities have pledged to disrupt your recruitment sessions on our campuses until you commit to phasing out your loans to the coal industry.”

Finally, we had caught Bank of America’s attention. The moment we announced the pledges, Board members spun around in their chairs to stare at us. They heard how our generation will not stand in silence as the massive burden of climate change continues to fall on our backs. They heard how we are mobilizing to fight back, running fossil fuel divestment campaigns on hundreds of campuses across the country. They heard that we are standing in solidarity with the frontline communities whose homes and lives have already been threatened by the coal industry, and that we will be standing in Bank of America’s way if they come to our campuses next fall to recruit new employees whose work would continue aggravating the climate crisis.

Mr. Moynihan responded quickly to our questions. “We have already successfully recruited at your school,” he said, and repeated his talking point about the Bank’s $50 billion commitment to the environment. We had already seen, though, that the Board was visibly disconcerted by the pledge.

We know that we have found a pressure point, and we are prepared to leverage our power over the Bank next fall. We call on other students across the country to join us by signing the pledge and making it clear to Bank of America that, if they expect us to join their workforce and to provide them with business in the future, they need to do a better job of addressing our generation’s concerns about climate change and the human rights abuses perpetuated by the coal industry.


1  2  3  4  5  6  7  Next →