On Friday, a coalition of climate activists gathered outside the Wells Fargo Museum in the heart of The City’s financial district to demand that the bank immediately pull out of funding fossil fuel projects, including a controversial pipeline in Canada, which has become a flashpoint in the current environmental movement.
Friday’s event was hosted by environmental group Extinction Rebellion, which held carnival games outside the bank’s offices on Montgomery Street, outlining the bank’s involvement in fossil fuel financing.
“We decided it was time, since Wells Fargo is headquartered here in San Francisco, that our climate justice community really should come together and just put the pressure on,” said Leah Redwood, an organizer for the region’s chapter. of the San Francisco Bay Area of Extinction Rebellion.
A group of a few dozen people from various environmental groups carried placards and banners while others moved theatrically down the sidewalks, wearing gas masks or burlap bags with signs stating ‘drought’ or “mega fires” draped around the neck.
As wildfires, drought and heat waves continue to plague the West and new reports warn of the grim state of the planet’s health, activists on Friday launched a new round of actions ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP 26 in November, calling for the suspension of fossil fuel funding and pressure on one of the world’s largest banking institutions to act on the climate.
“Now is the time to do everything. To hit them with all we’ve got, ”Redwood said.
But the bank, which has been carbon neutral in its emissions from Scope 1 and 2 operations since 2019, said it was making progress towards meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
In March, Wells Fargo announced that it would achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and that it would measure and disclose its funded emissions for certain carbon-intensive portfolios by the end of 2022. It also announced that it would deploy 500 billion dollars in financing for sustainable companies and projects by 2030 and is committed to supporting its clients towards a low carbon transition.
“Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time, and Wells Fargo is committed to aligning our activities to support the goals of the Paris Agreement and to help the transition to a clean economy zero carbon, ”said the bank’s director. executive, Charlie Scharf. “The risks of not taking action are too great to ignore, and collective action is needed to avoid significant impact on our most vulnerable communities. “
But activists like Redwood dismiss the bank’s climate claims as “greenwashing,” pointing to the bank’s funding of fracking projects and the Line 3 pipeline, which is expected to go live this month. .
The controversial pipeline in question, known as the Enbridge Line 3, will replace an existing pipeline that was built in the 1960s and would transport 760,000 barrels of heavy crude from the oil sands fields in Canada to the western tip of the Lake Superior, near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.
Friday’s protest came in the middle of a tumultuous week for Wells Fargo. On Monday, US Senator Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell asking the Fed to revoke the bank’s status as a financial holding company and force a split between its banking and Wall Street.
The letter came in response to a $ 250 million fine imposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency last week, following a 2018 scandal that revealed the bank improperly charged customers mortgage fees. .
But the activists did not come to talk about mortgages. They were here to pressure Wells Fargo for what they saw as its inaction on the climate.
“I’m here today because I have no choice,” said Zoe Jonick, a youth activist with the 350 Bay Area Mobilization Team. “I have never known a world where climate change has not hovered over me and I have never had the privilege of thinking that it would go away with enough faith and patience.”
As the morning fog cleared against the blue sky, a protester climbed a nearby fire brigade ladder and unfurled a huge banner from the top of the building’s glass facade, obscuring the bank’s gold logo and figures of the stagecoach on the top floor of the museum. “The investments of this bank are causing climate destruction,” reads in bold black type.