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Tree-covered river scene
Tree-covered river scene
Photo of Ivan Frishberg

Ivan Frishberg

Senior Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer

While sitting in your living room at home, a 0.9 Fahrenheit degree increase in temperature might not send you running to crank up the air conditioner but when it comes to permanently heating the entire planet, it has the potential to cause some serious problems.

Already having witnessed an increase in the number of devastating storms, fires, heat waves and droughts with 1.8 degrees of global warming over the last ten years, things stand to get substantially worse with the 2.7 degrees of global warming expected to take place in the next 10-20 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a study last month outlining these recent findings and called for urgent and unprecedented changes in order to mitigate the drastic effects of a continued rise in temperature. Amalgamated Bank is answering the call.

As America’s socially responsible bank, we want to lead the efforts of the financial community to combat climate change and find ways in which fellow institutions could follow suit. The IPCC report offers a summary of their findings which includes four main takeaways and a series of recommendations to help mitigate climate change that are ranked on a scale from “less likely” to “most likely” in terms of the level of confidence of their effectiveness. Receiving a “very high confidence” rating was the assertion that “partnerships involving non-state public and private actors, institutional investors, the banking system, civil society and scientific institutions would facilitate actions and responses consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.” After the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the onus now lies with businesses and other institutions to take matters into their own hands to combat climate change. At Amalgamated, we read that as “it’s time to take action now” and so we’ve launched our initiative to align all of our lending with the Paris Climate Agreement.

At Amalgamated we, ourselves, have always made an effort to combat climate change: adding solar panels, joining the Divest Invest Philanthropic Network, ending the financing of fossil fuel projects, moving to 100% renewable energy and being net-zero carbon in our operations. But as a bank, our biggest impact is in our lending. That is obvious when it comes to helping people buy a home or build a solar project, but given that our financing is stimulating economic activity, it also has the potential to drive carbon pollution. We didn’t want to run away from that reality, we wanted to act in accordance with the IPCC report and Paris Climate Agreement and do something about it.

This fall, we committed to measure our financed emissions and ultimately to align them with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. To do this we are leading a group of North American lending institutions that will develop an open and transparent accounting system for measuring the climate impact of our lending. Our goal is to have a system in place by the end of 2019 that we and all banks can use to measure our impact.  Once we have begun measuring, then we can begin managing and meeting our goals. We want our customers to be proud of where their money spends the night and confident that when we are lending back into the economy, we are being good stewards of their money and the environment.

We are undertaking these efforts out of a sense of duty to the future and because we know what it means to be a bank that has a forward thinking mission, but we are also doing it because we spent time listening to and working with our clients. Our clients are consistently leading the efforts to make the world a better place, and it is through our work together that we are able to be the socially responsible bank that we all want and that the world needs. It is our hope that, together, with customers, clients and fellow financial institutions alike, we can help make a degree of difference.