Climate justice advocates rallied in support of a resolution sponsored by Council Member Lander and eleven other council members calling on NYC to encourage banks, financial institutions, and insurance companies to stop fueling global warming

NEW YORK — Ahead of Earth Day 2020, a dozen New York City Council Members, led by Brad Lander, announced a resolution calling on banks, insurers, and asset managers to stop financing the fossil fuel industry. The move by city leaders comes in response to the national Stop the Money Pipeline campaign organized by climate advocates including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and local climate justice advocates, who rallied in support of the resolution. Council Members and advocates noted the significance of this action given the New York City’s centrality to global finance, and its extensive business with banks, insurers, and asset managers such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Blackrock, and Liberty Mutual, currently the world’s leading financiers of fossil fuel companies. 

“This year, Earth Day falls in the midst of a global pandemic which has shown us how fragile and interconnected we are, and how urgent it is to prepare for crises together, before it’s too late,” said Council Member Brad Lander, who sponsored the resolution. “Our organizing may have gone virtual, but the need to take bold action to confront the climate crisis couldn’t be clearer or more urgent. The coronavirus crisis calls us to do all we can to mitigate the coming climate crisis, and to see clearly the deep inequality of its environmental, economic, and health impacts. As Wall Street banks and fossil fuel companies line up for federal bailouts, New York City is leading the way to shifting our economy away from risky, extractive investments that threaten our collective economic and physical health.” 

Big banks, insurance companies, asset managers and institutional investors prop up the fossil fuel industry to the tune of trillions of dollars. JPMorgan Chase is the world’s top banker of fossil fuels, providing $268 billion in financing to fossil fuel companies since the 2016 Paris Agreement, including a vast array of dangerous, climate-polluting fossil fuel pipeline and other infrastructure projects such as the Williams Companies’ proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) fracked gas pipeline project from New Jersey to New York City and TCEnergy’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. BlackRock is the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels and deforestation, and manages nearly $7 trillion in assets worldwide, including owning 11% of the Williams Companies. Liberty Mutual both invests policyholder’ money into fossil fuels and insures projects such as the KeystoneXL pipeline. In the three years since the signing of the Paris Agreement, banks’ lending to the fossil fuel industry increased every year. 

“The most important new front in the climate fight just might involve crimping these massive flows of money to an irresponsible industry that refuses to pay attention to clear science. That New York City, the capital of capital, is joining this campaign sends a loud signal to Wall Street that fossil fuels are a bad investment,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, whose article New Yorker article “Money is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns” helped to launch the campaign.

McKibben was introduced by Rebeca Sabnam, a youth activist and climate leader with Cafeteria Culture. Sabnam spoke at the NYC Climate Strike in 2019, and also provided the pen that Mayor Bill de Blasio used to sign an executive order banning single use plastics in New York City buildings. “Financing the past only destroys our future. Invest in equity. Fund justice. Divest from fossil fuels,” said Sabnam.

The Stop the Money Pipeline campaign aims to halt the flow of capital to fossil fuel companies,  calling on banks, asset managers, and insurance companies to stop funding, insuring, and investing in climate destruction. 

“My family lost everything in Sandy. Wall Street finance like JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock and Liberty Mutual are financing the climate crisis, fueling hurricanes like Sandy. New York City will drown under rising seas while baking from heat waves if pollution isn’t slashed right now. That means these Wall Street goliaths need to clean up their dirty acts,” said Rachel Rivera, a Sandy survivor and member of New York Communities for Change.

“That BlackRock, the world’s largest backer of climate destroying companies, has been anointed by the Fed to bail out the economy in the midst of Coronavirus shock is a shameless bid to put the wolf of Wall Street in charge of the henhouse. Wall Street and big oil are driving us to planetary extinction, and the buck needs to stop right here and right now,” said Jeff Conant, Senior International Forest Program Manager, Friends of the Earth.

“Today we draw a line in the sand. We cannot financially support industries that guarantee environmental collapse, human suffering, and economic downfall. We can no longer be complicit. Investing in fossil fuels is immoral, and increasingly bad business. We gather today to rally behind a new paradigm—in which our civic and business leaders choose to prioritize the value of human life over profit—knowing full well the costs of business as usual. The costs of the climate crisis will far surpass the fear and destruction of COVID-19, especially for NYC’s and the globe’s most vulnerable, and we must take a long-term view and align our economy with a sustainable future. We thank Lander and his fellow Council Members for taking bold action on climate amid our present crisis,” said Lucia Gaia Pohlman, Sunrise Movement NYC.

“No amount of Wall Street money can hide the truth: to fund fossil fuel companies at this point in time is to knowingly fund the destruction of our planet and our communities —especially, our most vulnerable communities,” said Ilana Cohen, Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard & formerly Zero Hour NYC. “Young people are counting on companies like JP Morgan Chase, BlackRock, and Liberty Mutual to change their behavior before we inevitably face the consequences of their irresponsible and grossly unethical investment practices.”

“To finance fossil fuels is to finance the sure destruction of human culture and civilization–in the end, the destruction of humanity as we know it,” said Miranda Massie, executive director of the Climate Museum. “Banks, like museums, can operate only with the public trust. Financing fossil fuels violates that trust.”

Urged on by the organizing of climate justice activists, New York City has been a leader in taking bold action to combat climate change. This resolution builds on the work by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the labor trustees of the city’s NYC Employee Retirement System, Teachers Retirement System, and Board of Education Retirement System to divest from fossil fuels. It also follows the passage of the City’s historic Climate Mobilization Act last April, which set ambitious targets of a 40 percent reduction in carbon pollution by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 and implemented stringent emissions requirements for buildings which compose 30% of the city’s emissions. 

In addition to Lander, the new resolution is co-sponsored by Council Members Adams, Ayala, Cohen, Constantinides, Kallos, Levin, Levine, Reynoso, Rivera, Rosenthal, and Van Bramer.

“More than ever, New York City must lead on climate change to build a new, fairer economy,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “Large financial institutions must break the money pipeline to the fossil fuel industry, so we can finally invest in renewable energy to create a brighter, greener, safer future. I stand with my colleagues, led by Council Member Lander, the legendary Bill McKibben, New York Communities for Change and the many great leaders in this fight.”

“We only have one Earth and cannot solve the climate crisis without a collective effort,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “A divestment from fossil fuels is necessary for the future of the planet. I am proud to join Council Member Lander in this thoughtful legislation and look forward to its passage.”

“To even begin to make a difference in saving our planet from climate change, we have to admit that we cannot keep using fossil fuels for much longer,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Whether it’s oil running out in 53 years or coal in 110 years, now is the best time for Wall Street to cut its losses and divest from fossil fuels.”

“The COVID19 pandemic has offered our generation a glimpse of what a global catastrophe looks like. As our City, nation, and countries across the globe respond to our current crisis, we must recognize that the climate crisis looming on the horizon will have repercussions even more tragic than the ones we are dealing with today. We need deep, structural change to combat this crisis and that starts with cutting off the cash to those who profit from harming our planet,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso

“As Chair of the Committee on Hospitals, I’ve seen how our collective failures to prepare for a global pandemic are hampering our response now – it is clearer now more than ever how crucial it is to take real steps to prevent the looming disaster of climate change,” said Council Member Carlina Rivera. “The financial sector, which calls our city its capital, is funding, insuring and investing in the climate crisis. We’re calling on these institutions to completely divest from the fossil fuel industry, an action that carries the potential to reverse continued climate destruction with it.”

“Now more than ever, New Yorkers are looking for real leadership that puts human life ahead of profits. It’s incomprehensible that the City of New York is continuing to do business with financial institutions that have put New Yorkers (and people across the globe) in harm’s way through their investments in deadly fossil fuels. And we can’t forget that some of these same institutions took us to the brink during the financial crisis a decade ago. I am proud to support Council Member Lander’s resolution — we are sending a crystal clear message to Wall Street that fossil fuels belong in our past, and that our future is not for sale,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

The text of the proposed resolution is available here.