Lender JPMorgan Chase & Co. will no longer finance new oil and gas development in the Arctic, part of a host of measures the bank announced during its investor day Tuesday aimed at transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
The global financial services firm, which boasts $2.7 trillion in assets, said it plans to “support the market demand for and transition to cleaner sources of energy” by expanding its restrictions on financing for fossil fuel development.
In addition to nixing project financing for Arctic oil and gas development, the bank said it will no longer lend to or advise companies focused on coal extraction, with a goal to phase out any remaining credit exposure to the sector by 2024. JPMorgan also said it will no longer finance new coal-fired power plants or refinance existing coal-fired plants, except in cases where the project “is utilizing carbon capture and sequestration technology.”
The bank further plans to support “climate policy solutions” by joining the bipartisan Climate Leadership Council to promote a “revenue neutral carbon tax-and-dividend framework for the United States.” JPMorgan said it is also working with the Business Roundtable and other trade organizations in pursuit of “market-based policy solutions” addressing climate change.
The latest announcement from JPMorgan comes as the environmental, social and governance (ESG) of companies has emerged as a major point of emphasis in the investment community. Analysts have warned that oil and gas operators cannot afford to ignore their performance on these metrics as more and more capital is tied to some kind of ESG criteria.
Along these lines, JPMorgan on Tuesday announced a series of ESG-related actions, including establishing an ESG group to advise clients on reducing their carbon dioxide emissions; assembling a team to advise corporate clients and mergers and acquisitions to support their “carbon optimization objects”; and investing in ESG expertise, which will include publishing research on the topic and creating ESG fixed income indices.
Responding to JPMorgan’s announcement, environmental activists framed the bank’s actions as a case of too little too late in mitigating climate change.
“Today’s announcement by a major Keystone XL funder...falls woefully short in responding to the climate crisis,” said 350.org North America Director Tamara Toles O’Laughlin. “Time’s up for empty or gradual commitments.
“...Fossil fuel billionaires and their enablers are robbing us of a safe, livable planet, clean air, drinkable water and health accessible to all. Financial backers and insurers cannot continue to prop them up while they greenwash their bottom line with displays of consciousness. The reality of the crisis demands phase out of all fossil fuels, holding polluters accountable and transitioning to 100% renewable energy for all.”
JPMorgan’s news follows a similar announcement by BlackRock Inc., which intends to move away from fossil fuel investment. Late last year, insurance giant The Hartford instituted a policy to no longer insure or invest in companies that generate more than one-quarter of their revenues or energy production from oilsands or coal.
With the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluding in a 2018 report that preventing the worst impacts of global warming will “require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” the policy debate around climate change has taken on an increased sense of urgency as the world enters a new decade.
Many of the Democratic candidates seeking the nomination to oppose President Trump in November have staked out positions more than a little hostile toward fossil fuel development, and several state governments have laid out plans for an energy future that would freeze out oil and natural gas altogether.
Against this backdrop, oil and gas executives have repeatedly alluded to ESG-related issues during the ongoing round of 4Q2019 earnings conference calls.
Natural gas flaring, particularly out of the Permian Basin, is among the issues giving the upstream sector a “black eye,” and producers have signaled to investors their efforts to cut down on flared volumes.
Operators will also need to tackle methane emissions in the natural gas value chain, according to industry leaders.
Emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, from oil and gas development continue to come under scrutiny, including recently in a report from University of Rochester researchers that found that humans’ fossil fuel use accounts for a larger share of total methane emissions than previous research showed.
This suggests that reducing emissions from activities like fossil fuel extraction would do more to curb global warming than scientists previously thought, according to the researchers.