New York, NY — Today, JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) CEO Jamie Dimon released his influential annual letter to shareholders. In Dimon’s longest letter so far, a major focus is on how businesses “must earn the trust of their customers and communities by acting ethically and morally.” However, with regards to one of the most pressing issues of our time ― the climate crisis ― Dimon’s letter fails to address real solutions for the outsized contribution his bank makes through fossil fuel financing.
Dimon touts his bank’s commitment to “finance and facilitate $200 billion” to support the growth of clean energy; yet, he fails to mention that JPMorgan Chase is continuing to finance and facilitate far more to support the growth of the fossil fuel industry.
Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in late 2015, JPMC has provided $317 billion in fossil fuel financing ― 33% more than any other bank. In that time, JPMC has also been the world’s largest financier of companies actively engaged in expanding fossil fuel operations.
Rather than address this crucial fact, Dimon’s annual letter seeks to excuse it. “[A]bandoning companies that produce and consume these fuels is not a solution … Instead, we must work with them.” However, recent studies from Oil Change International and the Transition Pathway Initiative found that no oil and gas major has a business plan that comes anywhere close to aligning with the Paris Agreement ― and many continue to spend many millions of dollars lobbying to oppose any meaningful climate action.
“Financing clean energy does not cancel out the climate impact of being the world’s largest fossil fuel funder, and no amount of hot air from Jamie Dimon can change that,” said Ben Cushing with the Sierra Club. “The business plans of fossil fuel companies — especially those that are expanding exploration and production while we need a rapid managed decline — are fundamentally at odds with achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Any bank that refuses to acknowledge that is not a climate leader. ”
Additionally, Dimon’s announcement that JPMC will focus on the “carbon intensity” of the bank’s clients, instead of their absolute emissions, is highly problematic. This focus on “carbon intensity” allows fossil fuel giants to continue to expand their operations and overall greenhouse gas emissions, so long as they reduce the emissions per unit of output.
JPMorgan Chase’s top ten fossil fuel clients since Paris include Exxon, Occidental, Saudi Aramco, Shell, Chevron and Petrobras, all of whom have committed to minor reductions in the carbon intensity of their upstream operations while planning massive expansion of oil and gas extraction. JPMorgan Chase focusing on carbon intensity is a clear fig leaf for it to continue business-as-usual fossil financing.
“Our climate doesn’t care about the carbon intensity of fossil fuel companies,” said Alec Connon with Stop the Money Pipeline. “The only thing that matters is that we reduce the overall amount of greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, and Mr. Dimon appears to be deliberately avoiding that reality.”
This year’s letter was the first of Dimon’s missives to include any substantial commentary on the climate crisis. It came the same day that reporting revealed that in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, JPMorgan Chase executives urged top Treasury officials to support oil and gas companies and protect banks highly exposed to the sector in relief packages.
“Dimon’s letter displays his lack of leadership and urgency on the climate crisis. Coupled with the disappointing, but not unsurprising, revelation that JPMorgan Chase lobbied on behalf of bailing out the oil and gas sector, Dimon makes clear how little the bank’s biggest funder of fossil fuels intends to do to mitigate its role in fueling the climate crisis,” said Ruth Breech at Rainforest Action Network. “Dimon’s false dichotomy between walking away from fossil fuels and business as usual allows JPMorgan Chase to keep profiting off the destruction of our planet instead of taking bold action commensurate with its responsibility.”
To make good on its own commitment to align its financing with the Paris Agreement, JPMC must immediately end financing for fossil fuel expansion and put in place a stringent, rapid plan to phase out its overall support for the fossil fuel sector.