What is the role of banks in climate chaos?

Banks supply fossil fuel companies with the cash, credit, cover and counseling to sustain and grow their operations. Banks directly lend huge amounts of money to fossil fuel companies through term loans and credit facilities that those companies can draw on to cover their business costs, whether that’s building a new pipeline or developing a new oilfield. They provide crucial intermediary services, such as underwriting new company stock and bond issuances. Banks also rake in millions for facilitating mergers and acquisitions within the fossil fuel industry. Banks often finance the fossil fuel industry using the cash deposits of everyday people.

They employ vast teams of lobbyists and hold cozy relationships to political officials to maintain their interests and squash pro-climate shareholder proposals and legislation.

The top four financiers of fossil fuels from 2016 to 2022 are all powerhouse U.S. banks: JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Together, during those years, these four banks alone have financed the industry to the tune of a whopping $1.36 trillion.

Often overlooked, big banks are playing an increasing role in facilitating bonds issued by fossil fuel corporations looking to fund their operations. An estimated 50% of all oil, gas and coal financing is in the form of bond issuances, with Citi, JP Morgan, Bank of America and Barclays leading the pack.

Bank signs: Wells Fargo, Citi, Chase, Bank of America

Want a deeper dive?

Read “The Big Bank Power Structure and How It Finances Climate Destruction” — a primer on the banks that are financing the fossil fuel industry and how they wield power and influence.

How can we fight against banks?

Fossil Free Citi

Fossil Free Citi campaigns against Citibank, which is the second largest funder of fossil fuels in the world. Using research from the climate movement, campaigners uncovered that the bank has poured over $332 billion into coal, oil and gas since 2016, including $8.67 billion to companies developing fossil gas (LNG) projects globally and $1.78 billion to ConocoPhillips, the company behind the Willow oil drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope. Armed with this research, the campaign mobilizes grassroots organizers to pressure Citi to stop financing fossil fuel expansion and environmental racism, phase out financing for all fossil fuels, respect human rights, and massively scale up its investments in renewables and proven climate solutions.

A graphic that reads "Fossil Free Citi is going after the world's #2 largest fossil bank"

How can we research the banks financing fossil fuels?

Banking on Climate Chaos

This report and data tool adds up financing from the world’s 60 biggest banks for the fossil fuel sector as a whole, as well as for top expanders of the fossil fuel industry and top companies in specific sectors.

Global Coal Exit List - Finance

You can look up banks and investors and their coal financing or investments. You can also search for a GCEL company and look at the banks and investors behind it. 

Oil and Gas Policy Tracker

Analyzing the quality of oil & gas policies – the good, the bad and the in-between of the oil and gas policies adopted by financial institutions

Net Zero Banking Alliance Tracker

By tracking the commitments and actions of banks, BankTrack aims to ensure that signing up to the NZBA means that a bank will address its fossil fuel financing, starting with an immediate end to all finance for fossil fuel expansion, and will speed up target-setting for all other high emissions sectors.

Toxic Bonds

Learn about bonds issued by companies expanding coal, oil and gas projects. Find out who the world’s 30 worst fossil fuel companies are and the bonds they are issuing to fund their expansion.

Investing in Climate Chaos Lookup

Look up the investors in coal, oil and gas companies listed on the Global Coal Exit List (GCEL) or the Global Oil & Gas Exit List (GOGEL). Data was collected in January 2023 and aggregated on group level.

Coal Policy Tracker

Analyzing the quality of coal policies – the good, the bad and the in-between of the coal policies adopted by financial institutions.

Climate Finance Regulation Hub

A resource hub for anyone interested in learning more about climate finance regulation, published by members of the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition.

Fossil Fuel Finance Hub is a microsite of LittleSis, Rainforest Action Network, Private Equity Climate Risks and Vanguard SOS.