On Earth Day 2024, climate justice leaders from the Amazon, the Gulf South, and the Arctic, and activists, including actor Jane Fonda, joined together at Saint Mark’s Church in New York City for a first-of-its-kind hearing to speak against the disastrous effects of Citibank’s environmentally racist investments in fossil fuels.

Citi is the world’s second largest fossil fuel funder, having contributed over $332 billion to the industry since the Paris Accords in 2016. 


Jane Fonda and Roishetta Ozane speaking at Earth Day's "People vs. Citi" public hearing
Jane Fonda and Roishetta Ozane speaking at Earth Day’s “People vs. Citi” public hearing


At the “People vs. Citi: Confronting Citi Group’s Environmental Racism” public hearing we heard powerful testimony from people on the frontlines of climate change, from Peru to Canada, from Louisiana to the Bronx in NY and how their communities are suffering from pollution, wildfire smoke, losing their homes to floods, and struggling to survive amidst air pollution and sweltering heat waves. Building on this hearing, a series of protests at Citi headquarters and branches, as well as other big US banks, erupted across the country this week, igniting more actions planned to “turn up the heat” on the banks through this spring and summer, culminating in the Summer of Heat, twelve full weeks of targeting the financiers of climate chaos, including Citi. 

The hearing was chaired by environmental justice activist and founder of the Vessel Project of Louisiana, Roishetta Sibley Ozane. Ozane is deeply involved in the Gulf Coast fight against liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities that are devastating local communities in the South. Distinguished speakers joined from around the country to speak about the environmental destruction they have witnessed and dedicated their lives to fighting against. These included Goldman Environmental Prize winner, TIME100 honoree, and Laetare Medal recipient Sharon Lavigne, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief, Chief Na’Moks, and actor and climate activist Jane Fonda, among others.

Fonda opened the hearing by describing the privilege of living far away from what companies call “sacrifice zones”:

I thought that I understood the problem. I’ve researched. I’ve read. But until I went to Texas and Louisiana and visited Cancer Alley and the communities around the Gulf, I didn’t really understand the extent to which these companies, these global giants who make trillion dollars in profit, don’t care at all about the lives and the health of people who live in these front line communities. 

It is shocking to see what the pollution from these plants does to these communities. Entire communities disappear. 

Speaker after speaker from affected communities called upon Citi to cut funding for new and expanded LNG projects and use their resources to invest in clean energy alternatives and donate to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities and those disproportionately affected by decisions made by those at the top, conveniently shielded from the consequences of polluting facilities. 

Several of Citi’s large clients, like Costco – which has a co-branded credit card partnership with Citi – were invited to attend or watch this public hearing to learn about the community impacts that they are affiliated with via their banking partnerships; but Costco did not attend or watch the hearing.

More than 26,000 people watched some portion of the livestreamed hearing. Watch the recording here and Jane Fonda’s introduction here.

People gathered at the hearing
About 100 people attended the hearing in person and over 26,000 watched the livestream

Citi’s Role in Environmental Racism and Health Inequality 

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matters protests, Citi pledged to introduce more transparency into its racial equity efforts, committing $1 billion to help close the racial wealth gap through initiatives such as improving credit access in communities of color and increasing investment in Black-owned businesses. The irony, as Russell Armstrong of the Hip Hop Caucus stated, is that Citi is publicly announcing investments in the very communities they are also extracting from. They simply don’t advertise the extractions and exploitation. That’s our job. Armstrong expanded:

In Citi’s Corporate Social Responsibility statements they say they “feel responsible for the community in which it operates” and we couldn’t agree more. That is why we are calling on Citibank to come meet with the frontline communities in the Gulf South and bear witness to how the additional billions in financing for fossil fuels since the 2016 Paris Agreements is not helping “build more sustainable, diverse and equitable communities” that they proudly stay they are “playing a leading role to drive the banking industry into a more sustainable future. 

The US is currently the largest exporter of LNG and is perpetually building new terminals, which produce extremely harmful toxins and are disproportionately located in the Gulf South amongst Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. To date, Citi has provided $1.7 billion in direct financing to four LNG terminals in the South. Not only that, Johanna Hiro Torres of the Sierra Club revealed that the bank has continued to hand money to the Cheniere company, owners of Corpus Christi LNG, a terminal that has violated its emissions limits hundreds of times. Citi has consistently funded and advised terminals that have documented histories of failing to meet federal requirements, including Cameron, Port Arthur, and Delfin LNG terminals. Projects like these are still seeking funding, and Citi is still advising them. 

Banks try to cover their tracks, but the evidence is clear: pollution from these facilities is highly correlated with high asthma rates in surrounding communities. And these facilities are associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, heart disease, reproductive ailments, and mental health issues, emphasizing the stress and worry caused by living in polluted environments. 

Chief NaMoks and Christa Macias speaking at the hearing
Chief NaMoks and Christa Macias speaking at the hearing


During a panel with Indigenous leaders and activists, executive director of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of South Texas Christa Mancius, President of the Autonomous Territorial Government of the Chapra Nation in Perú Olivia Bisa, and Wet’suwet’en hereditary Chief Na’Moks, spoke about Citi’s lack of concern for Indigenous rights. Mancius left us with words her dad has instilled in her for many years: 

Five hundred plus years ago, people came from overseas to do one thing: to take the resources out of these lands and ship them back overseas. Five hundred plus years later, they’re still doing the same thing: continuing a genocide in erasure of Indigenous peoples across the Americas. 

They have continued to erase and kill our people on the resources of the lands that were given to us by our Creator. We came out of Creation from Mother Earth and we were placed here for a reason: to protect her and the identity of our people, and to live in peace with Mother Earth.

What We Are Demanding 

The hearing resulted in a list of demands for Citigroup: 

  1. Immediately stop financing new and expanding coal, oil, and gas projects and any companies expanding fossil fuels.
  2. Rapidly phase out all fossil fuel financing and demonstrate year-on-year reductions in fossil financing in line with minimizing climate harms and limiting global warming to well below 1.5°C.
  3. Ensure that clients fully respect all rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) as articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  4. End financing for any projects or companies that demonstrate a pattern of violating human rights and self-determination, especially for Indigenous, Black, low-income and communities of color.
  5. Adopt or strengthen sectoral and regional exclusion policies, including for coal, LNG, Arctic, Gulf South and offshore/ultra-deep drilling.
  6. Scale up investments in renewables and proven climate energy solutions in line with a just transition and the needs outlined by the International Energy Agency, beyond the inadequate goals currently set by the bank.

Read Stop the Money Pipeline’s press release for more.

Heading into Spring and Summer as a United Front 

While the big banks like Citi have still not heeded scientists’ and communities’ calls to stop funding fossil fuel expansion, the hearing’s speakers did highlight the progress we’ve made: the number of terminals that haven’t been built, President Biden Administration’s pause on new LNG terminals , the support we’ve received from Citi’s shareholders on resolutions on Indigenous rights, and the unity we see right here in this movement. 

In fact, these past few days Third Actors have been united in their Spring Spark actions against the financing of fossil fuels. From Florida to the San Francisco Bay Area, from Washington, DC to Ohio, and in New York City, supporters gathered to protest outside bank branches and Citi headquarters

To keep up to date with our activities, check out the Working Group Events page. Stay tuned for a recap blog on the April 24th and 25th Spring Spark actions against fossil fuel financing.