American Express, BlackRock, CitiGroup, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Mastercard, Vanguard and Visa have collectively invested $1.5bn in Bitcoin mining, according to new research from Greenpeace USA. These investments contradict the companies’ climate commitments, alleges the NGO.
Bitcoin mining consumes vast amounts of energy, equivalent to the annual energy consumption of nations like Colombia and the Czech Republic. Most of this energy derives from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, says Greenpeace USA.
Each of the nine companies flagged by the NGO have made climate commitments or set ESG targets. Some have publicly criticised Bitcoin's environmental impact, despite continuing to invest in and expand their Bitcoin portfolios, Greenpeace USA says.
Its report, Investing in Bitcoin’s Climate Pollution: Big Finance is Betting on Dirty Bitcoin, ranks asset manager BlackRock and bank JP Morgan Chase as the worst offenders. Despite their sustainability commitments to reduce carbon emissions, both have invested heavily in mining companies and Bitcoin investment products.
"There is no CEO of Bitcoin. But JPMorgan Chase, BlackRock, and all of the companies we investigated have the power and resources to push for a change to the code that would eliminate nearly 100% of Bitcoin’s energy use,” said Joshua Archer, Greenpeace USA’s Bitcoin Project Lead, in a press statement.
“This is a rare opportunity to eliminate a massive amount of fossil fuel use without needing to replace it with another energy source. But instead of calling for this common sense change and leading us toward a green future, financial institutions are making a risky gamble on Bitcoin at the expense of climate and communities. By investing in mining companies, creating new avenues for Bitcoin transactions, and building new services to bring Bitcoin to a broader clientele, they are operating in contradiction with their own climate pledges. We invite them and other stakeholders to the table to plot a future for Bitcoin that’s compatible with a just, habitable planet for all."
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Greenpeace USA said it made multiple attempts to contact executives from all nine financial institutions. Visa, Mastercard, BlackRock, and CitiGroup were willing to engage in conversations about Bitcoin pollution, but to date these discussions have yielded "limited results". Fidelity, Vanguard, JPMorgan Chase, American Express and Goldman Sachs "ignored or refused" Greenpeace USA's efforts to engage them on this issue, the NGO reports.
However, the Greenpeace report has been challenged by at least one Bitcoin ESG analyst. CH4 Capital co-founder Daniel Batten has written a rebuttal arguing that "the report recycles many already widely-debunked claims about Bitcoin, uses unsubstantiated fear about 'what might happen'[...] and repeatedly avoids important contextualising information".
Batten says many industries apart from Bitcoin use more energy than entire countries. More than half of Bitcoin mining globally in 2023 came from sustainable energy sources. There is a growing weight of evidence "from those most qualified to make the assessment" to suggest that Bitcoin mining helps build out the renewable grid. In addition, it can help mitigate the venting or flaring of methane.