For Immediate Release: June 30, 2016
Contacts: Ulla Nilsen, MN350, 612-787-7110, Ulla@MN350.org
Kate Jacobson, MN350, 651-402-8901, Kate@MN350.org
Under pressure, U.S. Bank strengthens climate policy
Organizers say environmental guidelines still fall short
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — After several months of community actions led by climate change advocacy group MN350 and allies, U.S. Bancorp has issued a new Environmental Policy restricting the bank’s potential investments in coal and taking carbon pollution into account in investment decisions.
Advocates commended U.S. Bank for its commitment to act on climate change, but called for greater changes, including divestment from tar sands oil pipelines and an accountability mechanism.
“We are glad that U.S. Bank is starting to limit their support for the fossil fuels that harm our communities. We also know they can and must do much more,” said Ulla Nilsen, Corporate Accountability Organizer with MN350. “To live up to their words on climate change, U.S. Bank needs to end their financing of tar sands oil pipelines that are deadly to Indigenous communities, Minnesota’s most precious waters, and a safe climate.”
The most recent policy released in June, contains commitments to reduce lending across the U.S. coal sector, including restrictions on new coal mining projects, coal-fired power plants and mountaintop removal mining practices. It also includes protections for Indigenous communities in the energy and mining sectors, and additional measures to screen clients in the oil and gas industries.
A report released last year, “Financing Climate Chaos: How Minnesota’s Banking Giants Prioritize Profit in the Face of Climate Change” took the bank to task for financing the Enbridge pipeline network that brings tar sands oil from Canada and fracked oil from North Dakota across Northern Minnesota. Climate advocates say these reserves of especially polluting oil, obtained through “extreme extraction” must remain in the ground to limit the impact of global warming to a level compatible with human life on earth.
Minnesota’s Native American communities have led opposition to the expansion of Enbridge’s pipeline network. Winona Laduke, Executive Director of Honor the Earth states, “New pipeline proposals from Enbridge put our relationship to our land, its health, and our communities at risk — infringing on treaty rights.”
The announcement comes after nine months of actions by community members around the country. Concerned customers publicly closed their U.S. Bank accounts, occupied bank lobbies and flooded top executives’ in-boxes with requests that U.S. Bank live up to its commitment to environmental stewardship. In April, climate advocates along with members of the community, faith and labor coalition Minnesotans for a Fair Economy spoke at the bank’s annual shareholders meeting in Denver, where CEO Richard Davis publicly indicated a willingness to work on their concerns.
Representatives of MN350 have since met with U.S. Bank executives on two occasions, along with faith and community leaders and developers of non-profit solar projects.
Other big banks in the United States, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi and JP Morgan Chase have also recently updated their policies around financing projects that drive climate change, restricting investments in coal mining in particular. A recent report “Shorting the Climate” by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) argues for further changes, stating, “big banks pouring hundreds of billions into the fossil fuels that are most incompatible with a climate-stable world.”
“In a recent Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis states, ‘A bank’s single greatest purpose [is] to keep entire communities growing and going,’”said Nilsen. “In order to maintain a viable economy our financial institutions must be willing to remove all support from the toxic industries that are devastating our planet, and instead help fund the transition to a sustainable economy.”
MN350 is a Minnesota based spin-off of the global 350.org, dedicated to “building a climate movement by inviting and inspiring Minnesotans to take powerful, collective action grounded in urgency, justice and possibility for our planet.” The organizations take their name from the scientifically recognized maximum safe amount of carbon in the atmosphere—350 parts per million—a level that has now been exceeded by global carbon emissions.
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