Institutional investors file shareholder resolutions at JPMorgan, Bank of America to curb emissions

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Institutional investors said Tuesday that they’re teaming up to file shareholder resolutions at the largest banks in the U.S. to get the financial companies to reduce financing tied to greenhouse-gas emissions as promised in earlier measures.

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The shareholder resolutions at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Citigroup Inc. Bank of America Corp. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Wells Fargo & Co. and Morgan Stanley call for further steps to be taken to reach emission targets.


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Although all of the banks have said they would meet the goals of the Paris Agreement to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, they continue to finance expansion of fossil-fuel production, the groups said.

The resolutions vary slightly by organization for the upcoming proxy season, when companies hold annual meetings and vote on proposals from shareholders. Last year, the resolutions drew support from 8% to 13% of shareholders.

This year, the proposals seek to clarify that proponents are requesting a policy to reduce financing over time, rather than “abruptly ending” lending relationships to fossil-fuel developers. The move is expected to win more votes from shareholders.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Harrington Investments said the nonprofit As You Sow, the Sierra Club Foundation and Trillium Asset Management are among the shareholder proponents.

“Scientific consensus shows that new fossil-fuel expansion is incompatible with achieving net-zero by 2050, yet these banks continue to invest billions of dollars each year in new fossil-fuel development — a fact corroborated by a new Reclaim Finance report released last week,” said the ICCR. 

John Harrington, president and CEO of Harrington Investments, is leading the filing at Citigroup for the second year in a row.

“Our proposal … asks that the company simply agree to phase out lending and underwriting that contributes to new fossil-fuel supplies,” Harrington said in a statement. “This request is entirely feasible.”

Paul Rissman of the Sierra Club Foundation said the group “encourages banks to finance companies that are certified by a credible third party to be on a zero pathway while maintaining that financing for new fossil fuels is incompatible with the banks’ climate commitments.”

The $207 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund filed shareholder resolutions at Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo to call on the banks to ensure that their financing activities will help achieve the International Energy Agency’s net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions goals by 2050.

“Failure to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 at the latest and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius [equivalent to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit] poses enormous risks to the global economy, with estimates of global losses from unabated climate change of 10% of total economic value by midcentury,” the fund said in the resolutions.

Trillium Asset Management led the shareholder proposal at Bank of America.

Meanwhile, separate shareholder proposals at JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are requesting a transition plan report from each financial institution to describe how it will align financing activities with its 2030 sectoral greenhouse-gas emission reduction targets, including specific measures and timelines for implementation.

Green Century Fund said last month that it had filed resolutions at insurance companies Chubb Ltd. Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. and Travelers Cos. Inc. asking the insurance companies to eliminate fossil-fuel projects over time.

Late last year, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said that abruptly stopping funding for oil and gas would be a “road to hell for America.”

In 2021, tiny investment outfit Engine No. 1 beat the board of oil giant ExxonMobil Corp. gaining three board seats by demanding the corporation implement a robust clean-energy strategy and winning a shareholder vote. 

Also read: Exxon vows to cut emissions from operations to ‘net zero’ — but won’t exit fossil fuels anytime soon

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