Council Commentary

The Population Council Joins BankFWD to Accelerate the Banking Sector’s Alignment with Global Climate Goals by Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Finance

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) ended over the weekend with agreements that fall short of its goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C – needed if we are to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. While the Glasgow Climate Pact produced numerous positive climate policies and commitments, their collective impact (if current pledges are fulfilled) is only estimated to limit global warming to 2.4°C – an increase that would be catastrophic to people and the planet. To keep the possibility of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5°C, the world must now implement and surpass its latest COP26 commitments with increased national, sub-national, and institutional climate action.

The Population Council is committed to playing our part in tackling climate change and is proud to announce that we have joined the BankFWD coalition in support of philanthropic, corporate, and individual action. BankFWD network members will engage with major banks about accelerating the financial sector’s efforts to align with a 1.5°C pathway by immediately ending financing for fossil fuel expansion and phasing out all existing fossil fuel financing on a 1.5°C aligned timeframe. In doing so, the Council joins its fellow Rockefeller-affiliated BankFWD network members (totaling well over $13B in assets under management) including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the David Rockefeller Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Growald Climate Fund, Stone Barns, Synergos, and Winrock International – in their work with BankFWD.

“Joining BankFWD’s work with our fellow Rockefeller-affiliated organizations is a natural extension of the Council’s mission ‘to improve the health and wellbeing of current and future generations and to help achieve a humane, equitable, and sustainable balance between people and resources,’ envisioned by our founder John D. Rockefeller 3rd nearly 70 years ago,” said Population Council President, Julia Bunting. “The scientific evidence is clear, and we know that climate change will affect different people and places unevenly – disproportionately impacting those populations that have contributed the least – and will exacerbate inequalities within and across nations, and between current and future generations.”

This commitment is particularly well-aligned with the Population Council’s Population, Environmental Risks, and the Climate Crisis (PERCC) initiative, which investigates the complex interactions and dynamics between people and their environment and helps to ensure that climate programs and policies are inclusive and rooted in the principles of equity. Recent examples of our work include studies on air pollution and child health in India; climate, population, and vulnerability in Pakistan; and population trends and environmental and socioeconomic stresses in the United States.

“BankFWD is excited and honored to welcome the Population Council in our effort to encourage financial leaders to embrace climate leadership, move beyond the short-term profits of fossil fuels, and develop banking models that will excel in a zero-carbon world,” said BankFWD Co-Chair Valerie Rockefeller. “To avoid the most catastrophic impacts from climate change, the scientific consensus is that we must halve global emissions by 2030 – a task greater in scale and speed than humanity has ever faced. Banks must be a bigger part of the solution and need to hear from their clients that their climate action matters.”

BankFWD was founded by members of the Rockefeller family in early 2020 with the mission to accelerate the transition to a just, zero-carbon economy by influencing banks to align their business strategies with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement. The International Energy Agency (IEA) states that reaching net zero by 2050 requires that there be “no new investment in new fossil fuel supply projects”, yet all major banks continue to fund fossil fuel expansion at an alarming rate. To address this, the BankFWD coalition aims to curb fossil fuel expansion by limiting the availability of financing for fossil fuel companies which:

  • Makes new unsustainable, carbon-intensive projects harder to develop;
  • Increases available financing for clean energy alternatives;
  • Signals to markets that carbon emitting projects are risky investments; and
  • Emboldens policymakers to pass ambitious climate legislation.

The Population Council is proud to take the first of what will be several steps to support progressive changes in the wider world, aligned with our mission, including through leveraging our resources by joining BankFWD’s efforts. We invite fellow organizations, companies, and individuals to join us in:

  • Asking our banks to (1) end financing for fossil fuel expansion, (2) phase out all existing fossil fuel financing on a Paris Agreement and 1.5°C-aligned timeframe, and (3) commit to measurable progress and absolute emissions reduction by 2030.
  • Actively supporting climate-leader banks and encouraging banks to increase their ambitions by favoring good actors with our business.
  • Educating partners and allies about the enormous impact that banking choices have on institutional climate profiles and, as appropriate, inviting them to join BankFWD’s network.

Learn more about your bank’s climate action(s) relative to its peers and join us in engaging with banks by visiting BankFWD’s webpage: www.bankfwd.org