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Activist Banks Want to Restrict Capital Access

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UnnamedMembers of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, which includes 84 large banks from 36 countries, have pledged to "transition all operational and attributable [greenhouse gas] emissions from our lending and investment portfolios to align with pathways to net-zero by mid-century, or sooner, including CO2 emissions reaching net-zero at the latest by 2050." Member banks have also promised to "set 2030 targets (or sooner) and a 2050 target, with intermediary targets to be set every 5 years from 2030 onwards."

The decision to "transition all operational and attributable [greenhouse gas] emissions" from "lending and investment portfolios" is an incredibly important development. It means that some banks are planning to pressure businesses, investors, and perhaps even everyday citizens to adopt policies in line with their climate change agenda. Regardless, that is, of whether customers want to abide by this action or can afford it.

Under the terms set by the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, which could be expanded at COP26 or in the months that follow, banks could deny business loans to a delivery company that refuses to switch to an all-electric vehicle fleet. Similarly, banks could deny access to financial services to investment firms that hold stock in fossil fuel companies. Seven of the largest and most influential banks in the United States have joined the alliance, including three in October alone: Amalgamated Bank, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo.

Together, these banks control trillions of dollars in assets and dominate most of the consumer banking industry. Of the five largest U.S. banks , four are now members of the Net-Zero Banking Alliance, and it’s highly likely more will follow. Banks should not be permitted to discriminate against customers or potential customers because they participate in lawful business practices.

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