A year ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone of digital campaigning to work in the arcane field of campaigning on fossil-fuel finance.

It was quite intimidating at first but over time, I realized that it’s also a matter of understanding that, just like in real life, we live in a web of financial relationships.

For example, if you’re working, you receive a salary from your employer. You then put that money towards different things like your rent, your utilities, groceries, or buying something nice for yourself and your loved ones. If you’re the forward-looking type with extra funds to spare, you invest in something that could yield a profit in the future. But every now and then, you make bad decisions on where we put our money, whether it’s an impulse purchase or a bad investment.

Financial institutions like banks function in the same way. They put money towards certain things that benefit society while simultaneously earning them a profit. But, like us, they sometimes make bad investments – although theirs come with much higher stakes: our environment and the climate.

It could take a long time to get a complete picture of the financial relationships of these institutions. But we know what they need to do now: stop giving money to these harmful projects.

Funding a fossil-free future

As we work for climate justice, finance campaigning is an important arena of struggle because, for the longest time, banks have been a huge source of money for the fossil fuel industry. Our goal is to move the money away from fossil fuels to build our future through what is called low-carbon development, which is just a fancy way of saying economic prosperity that doesn’t come at the cost of people and our planet.

To do this, we need to highlight the cost and risk of financing new fossil fuel development in public and private financial institutions, with the goal of securing more stringent investment frameworks and safeguards for these institutions – at the same time, calling for a shift in finance and investments towards community-led low-carbon solutions.

We need to emphasize that confronting the crisis now benefits both the environment and the economy. Climate action and environmental protection translate to money saved from ecological disasters prevented, and allow fiscal flexibility to instead finance social programs that benefit communities.

The bottom line is simple: climate action and going fossil-free is rational, not only because it guarantees our survival but because it is the financially responsible thing to do if we are to thrive in the face of the climate crisis.

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