Resolution's narrow defeat – at 49.6 per cent – sends a clear sign to bank that investors are increasingly displeased with its approach to fossil fuel investment.
Shareholders at JP Morgan Chase have signalled a growing desire that the world's largest funder of fossil fuels curbs lending activities that exacerbate climate change.
At the bank's annual meeting yesterday, 49.6 per cent of shareholders voted in favour of a resolution that asked the bank to report whether and how it would align its lending with the Paris Agreement goal of maintaining global warming well below 2C.
"Shareholders today sent the message that it is past time for Chase to catch up with its peers, implement a strategy to decarbonise and de-risk its lending portfolio, and help build a more secure future for all," said Danielle Fugere, president of environmental and corporate social responsibility advocacy group As You Sow.
Despite the resolution not winning the majority necessary to pass, yesterday's close call is evidence of mounting pressure on the bank - which has invested more than a quarter trillion dollars in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement was adopted - to emulate a growing number of its financial counterparts and strengthen its climate policies.
Activist shareholders allege the banking giant is lagging behind many of its competitors in terms of climate policy, despite being by far the world's biggest funder of fossil fuels. Barclays, the largest financier of fossil fuels in Europe, set a net zero emissions target and stated its intent to align financing with the Paris climate agreement in March, and new emissions-reporting concessions and enhanced green lending criteria have been drawn from US banks Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs of late.
Fugere said that JP Morgan Chase's inaction in the face of the "staggering risks of climate change" was "noteworthy and unacceptable." "Investors can no longer tolerate business as usual in these unprecedented times," she added.
The bank has funnelled roughly $67bn a year into companies that profit from climate change in the four years since the seminal 2015 Paris climate conference, according to the latest Banking on Climate Change report from the Rainforest Action Network. The findings place JP Morgan well ahead of next worst offender Wells Fargo, which invested roughly $49.5bn annually in the years between 2016 and 2019.
Yesterday's climate proposal was one of six resolutions, all opposed by the company, which were ultimately defeated by shareholders at the annual meeting.
Meanwhile, more than 84 per cent shareholders approved the re-election of former ExxonMobil chief executive Lee Raymond to the bank's board, disregarding a plea last week from nine state treasurers and the comptrollers of New York City and New York State urging voters to boot the long-time director off the board entirely, due to his ties to the fossil fuel industry.
The company initially planned to re-elect Raymond as the bank's lead independent director, but discarded those plans after concerns from shareholders. Raymond's 19-year tenure as lead director of the board will come to an end in September.
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