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Behavior Change
New Campaign Empowers Consumers to Ditch Banks Financing Fossil Fuels

'Swap for COP' asserts that moving one’s money out of fossil-fuel-financing banks is one of the simplest and most impactful things that individuals can do to help mitigate the climate crisis.

As the world keeps an eye on announcements coming from COP26 in Glasgow, new campaign group Bank.Green is hoping to ride the momentum with its “Swap for COP” campaign — which encourages bank customers to move their money away from banks that continue to finance fossil fuels by Nov. 15.

The buildup to COP26 has seen the financing of fossil fuels by private-sector banks emerge as a key focus. Bank.Green’s mission is to accelerate awareness of this climate-destroying activity amongst bank account holders around the world.

Running alongside the summit from Oct. 31-Nov. 15, Swap for COP asserts that moving one’s money out of fossil-fuel-financing banks is not only one of the simplest, but also one of the most impactful things that an individual can do to help mitigate the climate crisis. The goal of the campaign is to generate a swell of account closures by Nov. 15, sending a clear message to the banking industry to get out of fossil fuels.

While the world’s largest asset managers have acknowledged the importance of eliminating fossil-based fuels from their portfolios, they remain slow to divest. The finance industry at large has begun to pivot — creating guides, coalitions and methodologies aimed at enabling a transition to a net-zero economy — but their efforts alone will likely not be enough to get us there by 2050.

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Launched in April 2021, Bank.Green is a not-for-profit group dedicated to educating the public on the environmental destruction financed by the banking industry, while empowering individuals to take action. With the organization’s online bank-checking tool, visitors can quickly learn about their bank’s climate record, find out how to challenge their own banks directly, explore sustainable alternatives, and be guided through the bank-switching process and toward more ethical banking options via resources and email reminders.

Since the Paris Agreement, the world’s 60 largest private-sector banks have poured $3.8 trillion into fossil fuel projects. As recently affirmed by the International Energy Agency, any further fossil fuel extraction is entirely incompatible with keeping global temperature rise under 1.5ºC and avoiding runaway climate chaos, yet most bank customers are not aware of their bank’s contribution to this. 80 percent of Barclays and HSBC UK customers, for example, were unaware that their banks finance fossil fuel extraction, for example.

“The net-zero pledges of major banks are in total opposition to their conduct,” says Zak Gottlieb, director and cofounder of Bank.Green. “At a time when people are starting to make serious lifestyle changes to fight climate change, we believe that if more of them knew their own money was being used against their interests, there would be an exodus from fossil banks.”

This is the latest in a growing wave of efforts to help consumers understand the climate impacts of their purchases: Doconomy now provides banks and their customers with carbon, water and plastic footprint calculations for every transaction; and this summer, Mastercard, BBVA, Ant Group and eight more of the world’s leading digital payment platforms and financial institutions partnered to launch the Every Action Counts coalition — an initiative that aims to to steer consumers toward purchasing behaviors that help support climate action and restore biodiversity around the world.