The financial giant JP Morgan Chase announced on Earth Day that it intends to make dramatic reductions in its global warming emissions:
JPMorgan Chase says that by increasing energy efficiencies in its facilities worldwide, purchasing energy from renewable sources, and educating employees on energy conservation, the firm aims to cut its global emissions 20 percent by 2012 using 2005 baseline. In addition, the firm will offset 100 percent of all employee air travel.
This is another step in a remarkable turnaround for the fourth largest company in the world. Four years ago, JP Morgan was the “largest US bank without a comprehensive environmental policy.” Under pressure from environmental activist groups such as the Rainforest Action Network, JP Morgan has since established an Office of Environmental Affairs, Environmental Markets Group, and the JPMorgan Environmental Index to integrate climate change and other environmental concerns into its decisionmaking.
Changing its internal practices to be climate-friendly is a significant milestone for JP Morgan Chase. However, JP Morgan’s primary climate impact is where its money goes — the “continued financing of greenhouse gas intensive activities and projects” like new coal fired power plants. The JP Morgan Chase fortune is built on financing the U.S. Industrial Revolution, which transformed this nation into an economic superpower but also the most profligate greenhouse-gas polluter in the world. J.P. Morgan’s bank financed the rise of the U.S. electricity, rail, and steel industries, and the Rockfellers used the Chase bank to finance the great Standard Oil monopoly. JP Morgan Chase’s $1.5 trillion in assets represents over a century of profits gained from not having to pay the true costs of global warming pollution — costs that now threaten the entire planet.
JP Morgan — with Citi, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America — has begun taking steps to recognize those costs in future investments. In February, the banks established The Carbon Principles — which state that “carbon risks” should be assessed when financing electric power projects. The question now is whether they will accurately assess those risks.