Citi is a lifeline for the fossil fuel industry, pumping in $333 BILLION into the sector since 2016. But it’s ok, Citi are now insisting that they’re helping to find a solution to climate change…while at the same time lobbying to ensure they don’t have to prove they are doing anything. This is exactly the kind of duplicitous and destructive wordplay that the United Nations is railing against.

Citi’s plea for ‘metrics’

When Citi was recently asked directly about its funding of oil, gas and coal, it asked for better metrics. At a recent Climate Week forum, Citi’s Chief Sustainability Officer Val Smith responded when asked about the bank’s fossil fuel funding: “If you set targets that are aligned with 1.5 degrees for each portfolio, you create the metrics, you publish the metrics. You publish your progress each year against those metrics. The only way to hit these targets is not business as usual.”

We completely agree. Citi cannot continue with business as usual.

However, metrics are not action. Whilst Citi wants better metrics, their biggest fossil fuel client, Exxon (it got over $15 billion from Citi since 2016) is increasing oil and gas investment this year. But Citi has no intention of changing its business relationship with Exxon and the other major polluters it sponsors. How will Citi’s metrics ever show it’s meeting targets if clients like Exxon continue their plans for expansion? The answer: they won’t. And that’s the magic of metrics over action.

Lobbying to avoid great metrics

Whilst talking up data and “metrics”, Citi is indirectly lobbying hard against rules that would compel private companies to disclose data on climate-related risks and emissions, so that investors can make informed decisions about where their money should go. Citi isn’t doing the dirty work publicly on this: its lobbying association, the American Bankers Association, is doing it for them. They’re saying the disclosure rules go “far beyond” the remit of the Securities and Exchange Commission to protect investors. So much for being data that helps us address climate change.

A move by California to introduce disclosure rules on climate risk for companies operating in its state has also attracted opposition from banking organizations.

Costly delay and distraction

This proves just how two-faced banks like Citi are when it comes to climate change. Citi appears to want to be seen as a leader and a bank that cares about communities and the environment they live in. The reality is the bank is distracting and delaying us from real climate solutions so it can keep making money from carbon.

Citi is playing a dangerous game and we are paying the price for it. However, it can always show leadership and embrace the one clear answer: rule out funding for fossil fuel companies involved in new fossil fuel expansion. This isn’t wishful thinking. It’s in line with the IEA’s analysis of what’s required for a safe world.