This is a guest post by the activists at Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, who confronted their professor and Citi board member, Ernesto Zedillo today:
This morning, we at the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, confronted Professor Ernesto Zedillo about Citigroup’s fossil fuel holdings. Zedillo, who serves on Citi’s corporate board, has himself proclaimed that “to fix pollution, it is indispensable to make polluters pay for their pollution.” He has also lamented that, “notwithstanding the laudable progress of recent years – particularly in renewable energy – the world is significantly off-track to prevent a major climate disaster.”
This morning, EJC organizers disrupted “Debating Globalization,” a class taught by Citi board member Ernesto Zedillo, to urge Citi to take action on climate and commit to ending its financing of fossil fuel expansion at their Annual General Meeting tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/TwHBOod11m
— Yale Endowment Justice Coalition (@YaleEJC) April 26, 2022
Unfortunately, the “laudable progress” in renewables to which Zedillo refers is no thanks to Citigroup. Citigroup – a major investment bank conglomerate which owns Citicorp, the holding company for Citibank, as well as several international subsidiaries – is the second-worst fossil bank on the planet. From 2016 – 2021, the bank pumped $285 billion into the fossil fuel industry. Citigroup continues to resist making any substantive policy changes that would exclude the financing of dirty energy projects, producing only a weak policy on coal that will still leave the door open to miners until after 2030 and nothing at all pertaining to exiting its oil and gas holdings.
Citi’s continued intransigence on the climate crisis flies in the face of analyses conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has concluded that all fossil fuel expansion must cease immediately if banks like Citi are to fulfill their promises of net zero by 2050 — let alone if we’re to have any hope of restricting global warming to 1.5℃.
Citigroup’s new CEO, Jane Fraser, has acknowledged Citigroup’s poor record on climate. In the year since she took the reins, Fraser has repeatedly described climate change as a priority. The bank’s net-zero pathway is stronger than those released by other U.S. megabanks. However, when it comes to walking away from the industries that are rapidly rendering our planet uninhabitable, Citi’s net zero commitments are entirely inconsistent.
Citi’s TCFD statement explicitly stated that client exits are on the table, but at a Reuters Responsible Business event last week, Citi’s Head of Sustainability Strategy Davidda Heller seemed to walk back that statement. Moreover, Citi is more exposed to Russia than any other US bank. As Bank on Our Future notes, “Citi’s Russian investments [total] at least $10 billion” and Citi holds 30% of Lukoil, the largest private oil company in Russia. Protesters have urged Citi to cut these ties, which “enable Putin’s war of aggression” – but to no avail.
We would hope that, as a member of Citi’s board, Professor Zedillo would urge Citi to act in accordance with the principles he champions in the classroom and on the public stage.
Yet despite complaining about the lack of international coordinated action to tackle climate change, Zedillo had failed to engage in any discussion with us at all, even after multiple attempts toward contact. That’s why, this morning, we visited his “Debating Globalization” seminar, just to confirm that our message got through. Zedillo welcomed us, claiming he was eager to participate in discussion. He proceeded to speak for several minutes, and then asked us to leave (sans discussion).
Prof. Zedillo somewhat contradictorily said that he agreed with putting pressure on large financial institutions to divest, but also that we were misguided – and should instead be concerned with policy approaches, like encouraging a carbon tax. He also shirked all responsibility, claiming he is resigning from his position with Citi. We do not doubt this resignation, but we doubt its implications – it seems impossible he now has no influence on the happenings of Citibank. Again, we meant no disrespect to his classroom environment, and left when asked; but this issue cannot wait another year.
Tomorrow – on April 26th — investors have a choice. At the Annual General Meeting, for the first time ever, board members will vote on a resolution calling on Citibank to end the expansion of fossil fuels investments.
INVESTORS: If claim you are for net zero, this resolution is your chance to send Citi a clear signal that it must stop financing expansion. As students who will inherit this burning earth, we implore you. As Zedillo himself has admitted, we are beyond off-track – but that doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel.
Here’s the full clip: