Nearly four dozen of the world’s biggest banks, insurance companies, and investment fund managers are vowing to mobilize trillions of dollars in financing for net-zero initiatives under the banner of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), a new initiative launched this week with Mark Carney, the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, at the helm.
As one climate hawk pointed out earlier this week, the list of 43 participating financiers contains only one Canadian institution—the Vancity Credit Union—and none of the Big Five banks now facing sustained community pushback for their lavish funding of new fossil fuel projects.
Carney, the former Bank of Canada and Bank of England governor now serving as vice-chair of Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management, declared the new group “the breakthrough in mainstreaming climate finance the world needs” and “the gold standard for net-zero commitments in the financial sector.”
The institutions participating in GFANZ have their collective hand on US$70 trillion in assets, the Globe and Mail reports. And they’re declaring an interest in assembling “the trillions of dollars needed to make the changes that will help countries deliver commitments under the Paris Agreement.”
The institutions are focused on net-zero targets that involve “simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting those that can’t be cut,” the Globe explains. “Under increasing pressure from investors and the public, financial institutions are increasingly pledging to slash their own CO2 emissions, but also those from lending and portfolio management.”
Until now, “one problem on the path to net-zero has been the difficulty in persuading companies in various industries to adhere to the standardized methods of both disclosure and getting emissions in check,” the paper adds. Carney “has been a leading force in the push to improve disclosure and shift financial structures to help decarbonize the global economy.”
The Globe adds that “all of the signatories have committed to set science-based interim and long-term emission goals in line with the UN’s Race to Zero. That comprises a set of strict criteria, governed by an expert panel, that help ensure companies are making commitments, setting interim targets, and taking actions ‘consistent with the science.”’
For financial institutions, that means factoring in the Scope 3 emissions of the businesses and projects they finance. “Financial institutions have an enormous economic and social footprint,” said Vancity CEO Christine Bergeron. “We must rally that influence to take on the crisis facing our planet and support the shift to a low-carbon economy that is clean and fair for everyone.”
But while Vancity’s lending runs mostly to residential and commercial mortgages, the Globe notes that fossil fuel investing by many other financial institutions “remains a top complaint among environmental groups, which contend it is antithetical to any net-zero initiative. In an annual ranking by the Rainforest Action Network, called Banking on Climate Chaos, Bank of America and Citi were in the top five of banks financing fossil fuel development from 2016 to 2020,” the five-year span since the Paris Agreement.
Bank of America and Citi have both have now signed on to the GFANZ initiative.
“We can’t get to net-zero if we continue to dump hundreds of billions of dollars into fossil fuel companies,” Stand.earth Climate Finance Director Richard Brooks told the Globe. “Particularly ones that are in the midst of expanding their operations—building more coal mines, digging for more oil, or building more infrastructure that have lifespans of 20, 30, 40 years.”
“Eliminating emissions has become a major talking point for bank executives this year as the finance industry attracted greater scrutiny for funding the world’s biggest emitters,” Bloomberg Green writes. In a recap of U.S. banks’ net-zero efforts, published a week before the GFANZ announcement, the news agency cites JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s recent statement that “climate change and inequality are two of the critical issues of our time, and these new efforts will help create sustainable economic development that leads to a greener planet and critical investments in underserved communities.”
JPMorgan “remains the biggest funder of fossil fuel companies globally, financing about $189 billion since the 2015 Paris climate agreement,” Bloomberg notes, citing its own research. “Dimon wrote in his annual shareholder letter last week that ‘the solution is not as simple as walking away from fossil fuels’.”