Change Your Bank For A Powerful Impact On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Coal-fired power plant at Datteln, Germany

Image by Tyler at

Last week I spoke about our addiction to fossil fuels. I put the question: can we put in the effort needed to break our addiction to fossil fuels before it’s too late?

Now, before we can break an addiction we need to recognise the problem.

In the case of climate change, that’s easy: there’s plenty of evidence that how we have been doing things in recent decades and centuries is cooking the planet… and with that we were changing the way the Earth’s systems work, including the systems that support life.

In short: we are imperilling life on Earth as we know it.

Our lives are already changing because of climate change. The lives of our children and grandchildren will be different from ours because in a markedly different climate. And, unless we make dramatic changes very soon, the future of humans as a species  is in doubt.

So, we have good reason to change.

The next step is to take the decision to break the habit.

Most people around the world want to avoid climate change. But are we willing – as individuals and as societies – to take the steps needed to break the habits, the addictions, that are causing it?

Successfully breaking a habit involves working out – and acknowledging – why we have been doing the behaviour we want to change.  What is the payoff for us?

We humans tend to offer easier and better ways of doing things. We like to get things done with a little effort as possible. And if we can stretch out the time between having to re-do something (such as making a building) – or even repeating the work at all – then so much the better. Our use of fossil fuels has been fulfilling this desire.

The next step is to think rationally about the problem. Most people around the world acknowledged the problem of climate change, there are still some – particularly some political and business leaders in some Western countries – that are in denial. We are to help them think rationally about the situation. More on this later.

The third step is the key. We need to put into practice new ways of getting the payoff without causing the problem.  We need to develop and habituate doing things that don’t harm our world.

This step is critical because we don’t actually break bad habits; instead, we replace them with new ones. What those new habits might be, and how we create them, is a feature of my work on the subject of many blog posts I have already written, for example here, here and here.

There is one small habit that we can replace that will have a big impact in terms of stopping the increase in greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.

This small change will also help people who are currently denying the need to act on climate change to think rationally about the situation. These are the people who want to exploit more and more fossil fuels – coal, oil and fossil gas – for their own short-term financial gain. Their actions show that they extremely selfish and short-sighted, because they are not thinking about their own long-term future and that of the descendants. (Actually some of the rich, selfish people are already making plans for using their wealth to buy their way out of some of the impacts, but that’s another story.)

And they’re certainly not thinking about you and me and our families or the other inhabitants of planet Earth and the world we live in.

And what is that one habit you can make that can have such a big impact?

It’s to change where you do your banking.

Moving your money and changing your banking to a financial institution that doesn’t finance fossil fuel projects and businesses is a very powerful act.

In fact, what many people say after they’ve made this change to a more environmentally and socially responsible bank is ‘I feel really empowered’ and ‘I feel really relieved that my money is no longer going to destructive causes.’

This simple action makes a powerful moral and political statement – one that can have significant practical effects.

It directly challenges the social licence of the banks and the companies that they fund and that are seeking short-term profits at the expense of people and our precious Earth.

It builds support to help each other make the change.

And it builds the case and momentum for pushing society toward changing our bad habits – the thinking and practices – that are causing climate change and other environmental damage.

If there’s no social licence for fossil fuel projects, then they won’t be funded…and so they can’t go ahead and extract more fossil fuels – fossil fuels that need to be left in the ground if we are to have any hope of maintaining a habitable climate. Already, as a result of people pressure several major international banks have ruled out funding a major coal infrastructure project in Australia.

That’s why people are queuing up to switch banks to ones that aren’t funding activities that are wrecking our world.

If you haven’t already moved to a more responsible bank, Valentine’s Day 2015 is a really good time to break up with your bank. And there’s plenty of help for you to take this powerful step:

I’d love to learn about your experience with responsible banking. Just leave your comments in the Reply box below… or send me a voice message by clicking on the tab on the right.

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Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!