American Youth Strike Back at Big Banks Funding Climate Crisis

Thousands pledge to not open first bank account with Chase Bank

During this era of coronavirus lockdown, youth leaders across the country continue to innovate their climate strike tactics against Wall Street banks. Following the 50th Anniversary Earth Day Live three day livestream event last week, youth climate advocates are launching a pledge called Not My Dirty Money. The youth pledge is a joint partnership of highschool and college age focused organizations led by Divest Ed, Earth Guardians, Future Coalition and the PowerShift Network with the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition. The youth pledge is calling on people ages 13-25 to commit not to open their first bank account with JPMorgan Chase, due to the banks’ outsized role in financing climate change.

The 2020 Banking on Climate Change Report revealed that between 2016-2019, 35 international banks including Chase, Wells Fargo & Citibank collectively poured $2.7 TRILLION into the fossil fuel industry. There has been an increase in financing for coal, oil and gas, since the Paris Climate Agreement was adopted. JPMorgan Chase Bank is the world’s largest financier of fossil fuels.

The pledge intends to make a lasting impact on the Wall Street behemoth. The average US adult has used the same primary checking account for about 16 years, according to a survey conducted for Bankrate and MONEY. Youth opting out of Chase accounts is meant to leave a lasting impression on the company.

“Big oil companies come to us with the promise of progress, success, and infrastructure funded by the big banks of the world. This is a crucial time for us young people to stand up and put an end to this continued genocide by the fossil fuel industry on our people. We can together push banks to divest from fossil fuels to create a beautiful clean world our future generations deserve,” stated Nina Berglund, 20, who is North Cheyenne and Oglala Lakota and is a member of the Earth Guardians Youth Council.

Chase is supporting the companies behind highly controversial tar sands pipelines that have been focal points for the U.S. climate movement — including Endbridge’s Line 3 through Minnesota, TC Energy’s infamous Keystone XL– and the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Canada. Chase is responsible for perpetuating the Indigenous rights abuses and environmental destruction associated with being a major contributor to expanding these sorts of fossil fuel infrastructure. Chase is also bankrolling the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the last best line of defense against the climate crisis.

Campus activists and youth leaders across the country are gaining momentum through fighting fossil fuel projects and getting large institutions to divest from fossil fuels. Last week, American University Board of Trustees announced they had sold off the final $12.9 million of fossil fuel exposure within the University’s public endowment portfolio. This was done by selling $350 million in commingled and index funds, where the indirect investments were located, and using the proceeds to invest in non-fossil fuel holdings.

Marley Wiest, Fossil Free AU organizer at American University and member of the College Climate Coalition stated that, “In light of American University’s recent divestment win, we need to remember that divestment was never our end goal. Now we must ensure that money divested from one exploitative industry doesn’t end up in another. Reinvestment is a tactic that can be used on an institutional and individual level. By reinvesting our money in local communities, we can lead by example and show universities that reinvestment has power and leads us towards a more equitable future.”

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