Climate Advocates Arrested Protesting Bank of America During NYC Climate Week

Hi-res photos available on request

BofA targeted for its role as a top global funder of fossil fuels connected to human rights violations and climate chaos

New York — Today, on the second official day of New York Climate Week, hundreds of climate advocates marched to the Bank of America Tower in Midtown Manhattan to protest the bank’s role as one of the worst financiers of fossil fuels in the world. Following a series of actions and marches across New York City this week, including the shut down of Citi Bank’s headquarters last Thursday and the Federal Reserve on Monday, a loud and colorful crowd chanted and waved banners outside the main bank entrance.

Many dozens of  protesters formed a blockade with their bodies to block a main doorway. Police were called to the scene and more than 20 people have been arrested so far. Participants and speakers at the rally included representatives who traveled for this week’s events from communities directly impacted by projects funded by BofA, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline and LNG methane infrastructure development from the U.S. Gulf South and the Philippines.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted, Bank of America (BofA) has provided nearly $280 billion in finance for fossil fuels. At a time when the U.N. and IEA have called for an end to all future fossil fuel development, the bank is also one the world’s worst bankers of overall fossil fuel expansion, providing over $87 billion into the top companies building out new fossil fuel infrastructure. BofA’s biggest fossil client — at $15.3 billion in financing since Paris — is Exxon, one of the world’s most notorious drivers of climate chaos.

Methane gas or LNG (and what the fossil fuel industry greenwashes as “liquefied natural gas”) is known as a climate ‘super pollutant’ and it is the fastest-growing fossil fuel sector in the world. Right now, there’s a massive concentration of 25+ new methane gas export terminals slated for the US Gulf Coast alone. BofA has financed over $7 billion to the world’s worst methane gas-expanding companies, including ones behind projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, Port Arthur LNG, and Plaquemines LNG export terminal in Southeast Louisiana. 

Many protestors expressed outrage at Bank of America’s ongoing financial support of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP),  a methane gas pipeline system being built without the consent of impacted communities, that will span over 300 miles through sensitive forest and river valley habitats from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. 

“This hits home for me, I have been a loyal Bank of America customer since I was 18, when it was called Nations Bank. We live within a 3 mile radius of the MVP Southgate Extension, and this pipeline will be exposing humans, animals, and the natural world to the toxic chemicals in fossil fuels, has damaged critical Indigenous cultural sites in my ancestral homelands, and has brought ongoing intimidation to local communities,” said Dr. Crystal Cavalier-Keck (Occaneechi-Saponi). Cavalier-Keck continued “We have to call out these investments and demand the banks divest from fossil fuels and especially against the Mountain Valley Pipeline and Southgate Extension. I am personally going to churches, Scouts organizations, and events to ask each person to divest their money and stocks from Bank of America. It is time this bank cares about people over profits.”

The science is clear that achieving net-zero financed emissions by 2050 means stopping funding for the expansion of fossil fuels. Climate activists at today’s event pointed out that reducing emissions intensity while increasing financing for the fossil fuel industry and overall financed emissions is utterly insufficient to achieve that target and contribute to a climate-stable future. 

“Bank of America has blood mixed with oil and methane on its hands. Its continued financing of fossil fuel expansion and its weak human and Indigenous rights policies make it deeply complicit in rights violations around the world. The era of big banks avoiding responsibility for the very real world consequences of their investment decisions is over,” said Ernesto Archila, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network. “Bank of America is a leading financier of the expansion of methane gas infrastructure, at a time when we can afford no new expansion.” 

BofA’s ongoing financial support for the highly controversial Brazilian meatpacker JBS, a central driver in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, was highlighted by speakers and banners at today’s event as an egregious example of the bank’s destructive lending practices and hypocrisy in terms of climate commitments like ‘Net Zero by 2050.’ Bank of America’s Environmental and Social Risk Policy Framework states that clients must align with Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and that there is enhanced due diligence when Indigenous peoples’ are impacted by client operations. Despite having this framework, BofA remains one of the main culprits of fossil financing in the Amazon, home to 400 distinct Indigenous peoples who depend on the rainforest to sustain their livelihoods.

In April 2023, shareholders called on Bank of America to produce a climate transition plan and delivered a strong demand with 28.5% of shareholders voting in favor.  Bank of America’s 2030 commitments are vague, not based on absolute emissions and do not include a commitment to phasing out fossil fuels or stopping financing for expansion. (As You Sow)