Citi is the 2nd biggest fossil fuel funder in the world, including companies like Saudi Aramco and Exxon, who are accelerating the climate crisis. But in the last month, there’s been a significant pushback, and it’s only growing.
First, a group of New York moms and their kids marched on Citi’s headquarters ahead of Mother’s Day to demand that the bank preserve their kids’ futures and end the backing of oil & gas expansion. Chief Sustainability Officer Val Smith came down to accept the Mother’s Day card and bouquet of flowers on behalf of CEO Jane Fraser. Then Val had climate activists send her a message ahead of a Bloomberg forum panel debate on ‘sustainable financing’ in New York. The following day she was awarded the ‘Inaugural Award for Excellence in Greenwashing’ at a Politico energy summit in Washington DC. And just this week young folks from universities and climate organizations across the US stood outside Citi’s headquarters for a day with stark photos depicting exactly Citi what is funding – from cultural genocide of Indigenous communities to environmental racism against people in Texas and Louisiana.
Here’s Val being publicly challenged by Richard Brooks at the Bloomberg event:
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The sustainability folks at Citi may feel a little hard done by with all this attention. But can they really be surprised?
Just take Citi’s biggest fossil fuel client: ExxonMobil, which has received over $15 billion from Citi since 2016. This is a company that doesn’t even try to make climate commitments because it is fully wedded to continuing its fossil fuel business. In fact, it’s trying to scale up it’s planet-destroying operations. Exxon said it plans to increase project investment to $25 billion this year whilst quietly dumped one of its so-called climate initiatives, carbon capture and storage and plans to make biofuels from algae. Yet, there’s been no challenge from Citi.
Brand new projects
Citi can’t say its funding is merely keeping the lights on in current oil, coal and gas facilities. The bank is backing brand new projects which will be around for decades, such as the Port Arthur methane gas project in Texas which local communities are fighting. This isn’t to do with energy security or the Ukraine war, it’s blind, irresponsible profiteering. Read more from Roishetta Ozane, who is fighting for her community against the destructive LNG facilities being built in her community, bankrolled by….? You guessed it. Citi.
Youth activists gathered at Citi headquarters on the same day the bank was doing a diversity recruitment day. The irony of this couldn’t have been more blatant for the young folks who had gathered to protest. Citi wants to attract the best and brightest workers but its true values include backing oil and gas projects in Texas and Louisiana in neighborhoods of predominantly Black, Indigenous and people of color. The students made that completely clear.
Time for a change
It can’t be much fun for Citi attracting this level of sustained attention on its climate failings. There is a simple way around it: stop the greenwashing and end funding for fossil fuel expansion. It’s clear that these groups aren’t going to go away until real change comes.