On April 18, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), who partnered with PSR PA on the Clean Energy and Health Virtual Conference in September 2020, will begin a 40 mile, 5-day walk tracing the “money pipeline” fueling climate destruction. Led by EQAT, the group, made up of people of diverse faiths, students, elders, Vanguard customers, and other partners, will begin at a trash incinerator in Chester, where children are 5x as likely to develop asthma as other American children and adults are more likely to die from stroke or heart disease than other Delco residents. Over the next 4 days, EQAT’s journey will take them to a Chase Bank - so called “Climate Pharaohs” who fund destructive projects, according to interfaith partner Exodus Alliance - and end at Vanguard’s Malvern Headquarters. EQAT hopes to underscore the harm wreaked by destructive industries and demand change, linking impacted frontline neighborhoods to the banks enabling these companies’ projects and the global asset manager profiting from the world’s ongoing reliance on fossil fuels.
Vanguard, which manages $8.5 trillion in assets, is one of the world’s top investors in gas, oil, and coal. Despite evidence from the IPCC that these fossil fuel industries are driving our climate crisis, Vanguard has continued with business as usual, lagging behind even peer institutions like BlackRock, another major fossil fuel investor. While BlackRock CEO Larry Fink underscored in his recent letter to companies that true capitalism required major industry shifts in response to the evolving climate crisis, Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley has been largely silent on what “sustainable investments” really need to mean in 2022.
Both these institutions have joined the Net Zero Asset Managers Initiative, committing to “supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050”. But admitting there is a problem is only the first step; these goals can only be successful with a plan of action and significant changes to business as usual. Vanguard could use its proxy vote for climate-friendly shareholder resolutions in the short run, and over time, move its investments out of fossil fuel and forest-destroying companies that refuse to transition. Currently the manager’s voting records show frequent support for companies to disclose emissions, but not to make plans to decrease these emissions. And even their support for disclosure is limited: when the SEC announced in late March that it would begin requiring companies to disclose scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions (direct emissions, emissions in supply chain, and emissions in the value chain, respectively), Vanguard submitted an official comment pushing back against scope 3 reporting. Clearly, Vanguard’s “net zero commitment” lacks teeth.
But what is the human impact of these investments?
A short walk from the estates of Malvern - that is, four-days apart, according to EQAT’s planned itinerary - lie the neighborhoods of Eastwick and Chester. Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living and Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition have been fighting against polluting projects like Chester’s Incinerator and development projects along the floodplain for decades. These areas are known as “frontline neighborhoods” - communities that are often treated as disposable, living beside and on “sacrifice zones” - where inhabitants suffer higher rates of asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other health problems than elsewhere in the city. Often, inhabitants of these communities have less access to advocacy resources and must contend with intersecting vulnerabilities, including other health problems, racism, and financial insecurity. Inhabitants of these neighborhoods are more likely to need medical care, and less likely to be able to access and afford it.
Earth Quaker Action Team is inviting members of the PSR PA community to join on any day of the walk, or in any specific actions like the Interfaith Street Seder Protesting Carbon Pharaohs on Wednesday, April 20. EQAT especially requests support on the last day at Vanguard Headquarters, when the group will engage with the institution directly. For more information and to sign up to attend, visit https://www.eqat.org/walk_2022.