About 20 demonstrators gathered Monday in front of the downtown Juneau branch of Wells Fargo, to deliver a letter to the bank’s corporate leaders calling for an end to all funding of new fossil fuel developments.
Members of local environmental group 350Juneau and the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, held up signs and gave speeches in front of the bank’s Second Street branch, criticizing the company’s CEO and board of directors for continuing to invest in fossil fuel development.
350Juneau said it was coordinating its letter campaign with Stop the Money Pipeline, a national coalition of 175 organizations calling for fossil fuel divestment. Woodby said Monday similar demonstrations were taking place in Sitka, Anchorage and Homer.
Speaking to the crowd, 350Juneau co-chair Doug Woodby and other demonstrators emphasized their issues were with Wells Fargo’s corporate leadership and not local employees.
“They are our friends and neighbors and we thank them,” Woodby said. “The problem, however, is with corporate Wells Fargo.”
Woodby and other demonstrators said the bank remained one of the top funders of fossil fuel projects despite pledges to increase environmental responsibility, pledges Woodby and others called “hallow greenwashing.”
Yolanda Palmer of WECAN said she had divested her own assets from Wells Fargo several years ago for the company’s funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Protests over the pipeline began in 2016 at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and drew international support.
“My story started with divesting from Wells Fargo the day I packed up to go to Standing Rock,” Palmer said.
Wells Fargo did not immediately return request for comment but on its corporate responsibility webpage says it no longer provides new funding for coal projects and certain kinds of projects in the Arctic Region as defined under the Equator Principles, a risk management framework used by financial institutions.
350Juneau has called for several organizations operating in Alaska to divest from fossil fuels, and has repeatedly called on the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. to divest its assets from oil. But while the group is urging financial institutions to divest from oil, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has suggested the State of Alaska divest from financial institutions that do make such commitments.
The Permanent Fund has said it tries to keep politics out of its financial decisions but following the Russian invasion of Ukraine there have been calls for the state to reconsider its investments. 350Juneau’s members say global climate change is an existential threat to humanity. In an interview with the Empire Monday, Woodby said calls to divest from Russia were laudable and suggested a similar approach be taken in regards to the climate.
“If (lawmakers) are willing to talk about divestment from Russia, why aren’t they willing to talk about divesting because of climate change,” Woodby asked. “Global warming is a much greater universal threat. The climate crisis is more than a political crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis.”