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Extinction Rebellion Youth Protest for Banks to Divest From Fossil Fuels

LOS ANGELES, CA – The world’s 60 biggest banks have invested over $3.5 trillion dollars in the fossil fuel industry since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. On Earth Day, over 50 youth came to protest in the Financial District in downtown Los Angeles to demand banks to divest from fossil fuels. They are fighting for racial and climate justice by demanding banks to invest in renewable energy and sustainable farming.

Photo, Extinction Rebellion Youth Los Angeles

April is shareholder season, which is when banks decide where to invest their money. Aidan Liss, co-coordinator of Extinction Rebellion Youth Los Angeles, said that banks’ commitments to a greener future are “empty promises and imaginary numbers.” Liss said people die when banks lie.

“Banks put a lot of time and money into their public image and making sure they have these plans for 2025 net-zero and carbon zero [emissions],” Liss said. “But actually [banks] put hundreds of billions of dollars into funding the fossil fuel industry.”

Extinction Rebellion Co-coordinator Dilan Gohill called out Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase Bank, and Charles Scharf, CEO of Wells Fargo, for contributing to the climate crisis by financing oil pipelines.

Gohill and Action Coordinator Arielle Tycko said the ‘money pipeline’ is what allows fossil fuels to continue to burn. The money pipeline, as they call it, is a pipeline of money from big banks to the fossil fuel industry.

The Extinction Rebellion youth marched to the Financial District doing individual speeches at JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.

Photo, Extinction Rebellion Youth Los Angeles

“Like any good school children, we know that when we don’t pay attention to a lesson, there is punishment,” Gohill said in a speech prior to the march.

“And it seems as though you all have been naughty, naughty bankers,” Tycko said after.

According to a report from environmental groups, including the Rainforest Action Network and the Sierra Club, JP Morgan Chase Bank is the world’s worst “fossil bank.” Since 2015, Chase has financed over $315 billion to the fossil fuel industry — that’s 36% more than any other bank in the world. Chase also contributed funding to the Keystone Pipeline System, an oil pipeline in Canada and the United States.

“This corrupt company has made it abundantly clear… that they as a company do not care about our futures, they do not care about people experiencing climate grief across the world, they do not care about indigenous sovereignty, they do not care about the collapsing of ecosystems, and they do not care about the millions of people who have been victim to their destructive contributions,” Communications Coordinator Olivia Schafer said.

Citibank is below Chase as the second worst bank financing fossil fuels. Since 2015, Citibank has financed over $235 billion to the industry. According to Vox, Citibank also funds the top 100 corporations that are expanding their burning of fossil fuels, including the Canadian energy transportation company Enbridge, whose Line 3 Oil Pipeline is of great opposition to the indigenous community in Minnesota. The Canadian company is responsible for the largest inland oil spill in the United States history.

“These profiteers hoard preposterous amounts of wealth no one could possibly spend in a lifetime at the expense of millions already suffering the consequences of environmental neglect — from developing terminal illnesses, to losing their homes, to watching their loved ones leave this Earth far too early,” Extinction Rebellion member Dannie DiMichele said.

Wells Fargo has financed $26 billion into fossil fuels in 2020, and Bank of America financed nearly $200 billion in the past five years.

“You’ve stuck your heads so far up your asses that it has come down to the youth to teach you a little lesson on what real responsibility means,” Gohill said. “Real responsibility means caring first about people, not caring first about profit.”

E.J. Bernacki, Wells Fargo’s Vice President for Sustainability, wrote in an email that Wells Fargo intends to support their clients in their efforts to reduce their own climate impacts.

“Engagement, rather than divestment, is the fastest pathway to achieving economy-wide net-zero ambitions,” Bernacki wrote in the email.

Wells Fargo statement in response to the Extinction Rebellion youth protest.

Bernacki said Wells Fargo will increase engagement with their clients to help them measure their climate risk and finance the costs related to a low-carbon transition.

Val Smith, Citibank's Chief Sustainability Officer, wrote in their website that Citibank intends to have net-zero emissions by 2050. He wrote that the plan on how Citibank will do so is still being developed.

“As the world's most global bank, we acknowledge that we are connected with many carbon-intensive sectors that have driven global economic development for decades,” Smith wrote. “Our work to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 therefore makes it imperative that we work with our clients, including our fossil fuel clients, to help them and the energy systems that we all rely on to transition to a net-zero economy.”

Yulu Wek is a member of the International Indigenous Youth Council who came to support the protest of the Extinction Rebellion youth.

“Our roots are in the protection of the Earth, and our founders were on the frontlines of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016,” Wek said. “My story is no different than yours.”

The Dakota Access Pipeline is an underground oil pipeline in the United States that is over 1,100-mile-long. There were protests against the construction of the pipeline because of its impact on the environment and lands of Native Americans. The pipeline was constructed nevertheless.

"We need to be in solidarity with youth all across this world that are fighting — fighting for climate justice, fighting for the protection of this Earth, the water, all of our relations here,” Wek said. “May we be a force that disseminates as far as we can reach — and that is infinite.”

But not everyone was in solidarity with the Extinction Rebellion youth.

The protest started at 3 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m. with a shutdown on one of the prominent intersections within the Financial District, where the youth covered the crosswalk with signs. The police were in the area a few miles away, but they didn’t order the youth to stop blocking the traffic.

When the young people stalled traffic, some drivers weren’t happy.

“This is kinda not the right way to do it," an LA driver, who didn’t want to identify himself, said. “I just want to get through to my order. I have a family to feed, so this is kind of like, taking up time and money from everything."

But Gohill won’t stop. He said banks must divest, or they will lose youth as customers since “we will only invest in you if you invest in us.” He said the fight is just beginning.

Audio, Sammy Fernandes

“Big banks are funding climate chaos,” Gohill said. “Indigenous lands are at risk, our future is at risk, people’s health are at risk because of the fossil fuel industry. If they don't do anything about this, we're going to be here every month, every week, every day, whatever it takes for them to divest.”

Earth Day has become a day of conflict rather than the normal celebration.

“Love and rage,” Liss said.

“With global warming and climate change occurring, it’s now more important than ever to make sure the fossil fuel companies do not continue to get the funding that big banks are giving them,” Tycko said.

Video, Rainforest Action Network

Video, Sammy Fernandes

By Sammy Fernandes

With contributions from Banking on Climate Chaos Report and Vox

Photo, Extinction Rebellion Youth Los Angeles

Photo, Extinction Rebellion Youth Los Angeles

Audio, Sammy Fernandes

Video, Rainforest Action Network

Video, Sammy Fernandes


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