So, what do banks have to do with climate change and saving snow? In this blog, we explain in simple terms what banks do and why we’re asking for your help in telling you bank to be cool. 

What banks do: look after money and lend money

It’s simple really. Banks look after money – lots of it – for individuals, companies and governments. Helpfully, they provide all sorts of services that let us store money and spend it. And of course banks make money by lending to individuals, companies and governments.

For a long time banks have mostly focused on financial returns. They will lend you or a company some money, as long as it’s not for illegal purposes, if they think you can pay it back, plus the interest.

So banks fund all sorts of activity, from airlines to shipping, from renewable energy to coal mines, from cars to department stores and so on.

And all of this activity has an impact on the environment to a greater or lesser degree. Solar energy is good for climate change but has some negative impacts, a coal mine is pretty much all negative but does provide the power source for energy in some countries. 

Climate change means that we really don’t need more fossil fuels

We need to rapidly de-carbonise our economy, as quickly as we possibly can, to avoid catastrophic climate change[1]. So that means we absolutely do not need to invest in new fossil fuel sources – particularly coal, or oil from pristine locations such as the Arctic.

Remember, if you want to dig a new coal mine, or drill for oil in the Arctic, before you even set off you’re going to need a great big chunk of money. All this exploration, machinery and a workforce – it’s not cheap. So if a bank won’t lend you the money, then you can’t do it – simple.

But here’s the thing. Last year banks lent over $100 billion to extreme fossil fuels – classified as tar sands oil, Arctic oil, ultra-deepwater oil, LNG, coal mining, and coal-fired power[2]. This is not cool and, in our humble opinion, needs to stop.

While there is increasing awareness of this as an issue, with a range of initiatives (such as the United Nations Principles for Responsible Banking[3], focused on bringing bank lending in line with climate change goals), we need to let banks know that we the public care about this.

We’re all customers of banks, we all care about climate change, so we see this as pretty simple – ask you bank to be cool on climate change. Let them know we care. Let them know we are not OK with lending money to enable organisations to exploit more fossil fuel reserves when we’ve got too many to contend with already.

On top of all this, it turns out that fossil fuels may not be a particularly good long term lending decision[4]. So banks should think carefully about that too!


[1] Hothouse Earth, August 2018

[2] Banking on climate change 2018


[4] Carbon Tracker, 2020 vision, September 2018 

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