Here’s the problem: Despite the climate crisis, our biggest banks are huge funders of coal and gas and oil companies. In the years since the Paris climate accords, they have given more than three trillion dollars in loans to these companies, even as scientists have told us we must stop the expansion of this industry.
Photo showcasing polution from fossil fuels

The money they loan ends up building pipelines (endangering rivers and streams, and the rights of Native Americans). Those loans support fracking wells (even though scientists have proven they leak huge amounts of greenhouse gases). That money helps build giant terminals for exporting more gas and oil, even though everyone knows the world has to switch to renewable energy.

We know none of this is necessary

Because engineers have done such good work in recent years, solar and wind power is now the cheapest way to generate power on our planet. So why do big banks keep loaning money to the fossil fuel industry? Because they can still make a quick profit—but only at the expense of everyone who comes after us.

Ending these loans will play a big part in speeding the energy transition—and it’s a job that older Americans are especially qualified to work on. That’s because, after a lifetime of work, our retirement accounts contain many of the assets that back these loans. Chase or Citibank or Bank of America or Wells Fargo needs us more than we need them. They may not pay as much attention as they should to younger people because they don’t have much money yet, but they will definitely pay attention to our generation.

There's a ladder of engagement here

The first job is to pledge to let them know we’re unhappy about it.

We’re going to write as many branch offices, account managers, and CEO suites as we can by December 31st, to politely tell them that the time has come to stop lending money to fossil fuel companies, period. We’re the generations that still know how to write letters (and help the post office in the process by buying stamps). It’s best if you have an account in that bank, but if not don’t worry.We’ve drafted some models, which you can find below, to work from—but be creative.

You can find addresses for branch locations at the following links: Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. Take a photo of yourself with your letter (before putting it in the envelope), while mailing it out, or on delivering it to your local branch. You can post the photo on social media using #ThirdAct, or email it to us directly at takingaction@thirdact.org. And it helps enormously if you keep track of who you’ve called or written: here’s how to report to us on your contacts.

If that doesn’t work—if the banks keep engaging in greenwashing, or making sketchy promises about changing decades from now—then we’ll move on to other steps, including figuring out how to put more pressure on—including tips on how to move our money. But for starters we need to let them know how we feel—politely, but firmly, and in numbers too big to ignore!

Sample letters to send to your bank

Dear Branch Manager,

I am a resident of XX, and hence pass by your bank regularly. But it’s only recently I’ve learned of its deep connections to the fossil fuel industry driving climate change.

I’m writing because I would like you to pass on to the executives of your bank the following points:

1) Everyone knows that your bank has sent more than a quarter trillion dollars to the fossil fuel industry since the signing of the Paris climate accords. This is unconscionable: scientists have now made very clear that we must immediately cease the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and yet you have extended them loans and letters of credit that allow them to continue business as usual.

2) We are of course grateful that you’re also lending to the growing renewable energy sector. But that doesn’t cancel out the damage the fossil fuel industry causes. We are in an emergency, and in an emergency we need to change the ways we act, not continue down the same path.

3) We are aware that your bank has made promises about its conduct in the year 2050, and we are unimpressed–we are unlikely to be here, your executives are unlikely to be here, and if we wait that long the planet is unlikely to resemble the one we’ve known all our lives.

Young people have begun to lead the fight against this kind of collusion, and of course they have good reason: they will have to live their whole lives with the consequences. But I want you to know that many of us older citizens are backing them up: we don’t want our money used to undermine the world our kids and grandkids will inherit. But we’re not entirely selfless either: we saved for our retirement; if we’re going to enjoy it, we need a working world.

Please let me know that you have passed this message along. I will continue to monitor this situation, and with my colleagues at Third Act will make sure that we do what we can to stop this amoral behavior.

Thank you,

Dear Branch Manager,

I am a resident of XX, and hence pass by your bank regularly. But it’s only recently I’ve learned of its deep connections to the fossil fuel industry driving climate change.

I’m writing because I would like you to pass on to the executives of your bank the following points:

1) Everyone knows that your bank has sent more than a quarter trillion dollars to the fossil fuel industry since the signing of the Paris climate accords. This is unconscionable: scientists have now made very clear that we must immediately cease the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, and yet you have extended them loans and letters of credit that allow them to continue business as usual.

2) We are of course grateful that you’re also lending to the growing renewable energy sector. But that doesn’t cancel out the damage the fossil fuel industry causes. We are in an emergency, and in an emergency we need to change the ways we act, not continue down the same path.

3) We are aware that your bank has made promises about its conduct in the year 2050, and we are unimpressed–we are unlikely to be here, your executives are unlikely to be here, and if we wait that long the planet is unlikely to resemble the one we’ve known all our lives.

Young people have begun to lead the fight against this kind of collusion, and of course they have good reason: they will have to live their whole lives with the consequences. But I want you to know that many of us older citizens are backing them up: we don’t want our money used to undermine the world our kids and grandkids will inherit. But we’re not entirely selfless either: we saved for our retirement; if we’re going to enjoy it, we need a working world.

Please let me know that you have passed this message along. I will continue to monitor this situation, and with my colleagues at Third Act will make sure that we do what we can to stop this amoral behavior.

Thank you,

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