Environmental protesters, including one disguised as a dinosaur, handed a letter to Wells Fargo CEO Charles Schraf, asking the bank to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
350Juneau climate activists – who hold weekly rallies in the courthouse plaza across from the State Capitol building – took a short walk to the Wells Fargo branch on Center Second Street -City of Juneau. One protester, Dick Farnell, wore a full body suit of a Tyrannosaurus rex with a sign that read “Keep me in the ground”.
In the letter, the group welcomed the commitment published by the bank to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in particular a target of net zero emissions by 2050, intermediate emissions targets set by 2022 and a $ 500 billion funding commitment for sustainable energy by 2030. But at the same time time 350Juneau was critical of the bank’s continued support for fossil fuel extraction, including a pipeline replacement project in Minnesota .
“We monitor stocks, we read and analyze financial reports, we track loans and investments, and we assess the veracity of public statements,” the letter from 350Juneau reads. “We sincerely want to work with you. Responsible financial services are essential for a fair, just and democratic society.
The branch manager finally accepted the letter after a brief conversation, said Doug Woodby, co-president of 350Juneau.
Wells Fargo continues to do business with a number of traditional energy customers, including in Alaska, said EJ Bernacki, the bank’s sustainability spokesperson, and is not necessarily ready to divest.
“We believe in engagement rather than divestment,” Bernacki said in a telephone interview on Friday. “We believe it is important to work with our customers in these sectors to help with the transition (to clean energy). ”
Bernacki outlined the company’s goals and said the company has integrated social and environmental impacts into its planning. The amount of investment and funding in the fossil fuel industries is declining, according to data collected by the Rainforest Action Network, and Bernacki said the company is also hearing environmental concerns from its investors. Wells Fargo has established a task force to review the company’s climate-related activities and address concerns about environmental impacts.
While 350Juneau activists praised the bank’s goals, at the same time they expressed skepticism that the stated ambitions would translate into significant change.
“It depends on what they really mean they’re going to do,” said Woodby.
Woodby and co-chair Elaine Schroeder said large companies often make lofty promises while pursuing the same problematic behavior, a process Schroeder called “greenwashing.”
The Rainforest Action Network, which tracks funding for the fossil fuel industry, ranks Wells Fargo second in overall funding for the sector, behind JPMorgan-Chase.
Despite their reservations, 350Juneau activists see Wells Fargo’s goals as a sort of affirmation of their demands. Wells Fargo and other big institutions have recognized the importance of climate change, Schroeder said, and are naturally diverting their money from fossil fuels.
“It’s not a growing industry,” Schroeder said.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.