An open-pit coal mine in Jambi, south Sumatra.The Widodo government's preference for coal-power plants is an environmental and public health disaster, critics say. Photo: AFP / Goh Chai Hin
An open-pit coal mine in Jambi, South Sumatra. The big banks are still funding huge coal projects in Indonesia. Photo: AFP / Goh Chai Hin

I am a clinical psychologist, author and climate activist in the United States. I accepted an invitation to address the CIMB Cooler Earth Sustainability Summit, which bills itself as “a platform to inspire business leaders, financiers, investors, policy and decision-makers to change the paradigm of business and finance, and our way of life.” 

However, CIMB Group, the lead organizer of the summit, is funding the deadly expansion of fossil fuels. CIMB has lent more than US$2 billion to coal projects in the last 10 years, and just in July, signed an agreement to fund a massive coal project in Indonesia, and is the subject of a campaign by Greenpeace and other environmental groups in Asia. 

I accepted the invitation because people in the financial sector have a key role to play in protecting humanity, and I know many of them deeply about that climate emergency, and about protecting humanity and the living world. 

We are in an accelerating climate emergency. The world is already too hot for safety and justice. At just 1 degree Celsius of warming from pre-industrial levels, we see disasters all over the world – fires, floods, heatwaves, disease, even locusts – made worse by climate change. 

All of these impacts damage food production and threaten to destabilize countries and entire regions. We are in terrible danger – me, you, my family, your family – the whole human family.

The climate emergency is so advanced that, at this late hour, the only way to protect ourselves is to take drastic, emergency measures. We need an all-hands-on-deck mobilization of the global economy to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and restore a safe climate. We need to immediately halt the expansion of the fossil fuel infrastructure and wind down the infrastructure we have now. 

CIMB’s continued investment into fossil fuels is leading us further down the road to catastrophe; harming humanity and all life, every single day. These investments must stop immediately. Redirecting the funds towards renewable energy would help move us to a zero carbon economy and help future-proof the countries and regions building them.

The clients and customers of CIMB have the power to change its policies. It will listen to you. Contact your account representative, the board, or senior management of CIMB and tell them to divest from fossil fuels. And if they don’t listen, pull your business from them. 

Employees in the financial sector are well positioned to stop the expansion of the fossil-fuel infrastructure – and absolutely critical element of this fight – but it’s going to take courage. Create a group of employees that is against funding fossil fuels, and start campaigning, internally and in public.

Ask CIMB to declare a climate emergency and re-evaluate all investments in that light, stop funding all fossil-fuel projects and invest in renewable energy, and advocate for climate-emergency policies to governments.

Members of the public, I encourage you to visit, where you will be able to tweet or send a letter to CIMB through social media, demanding that CIMB stop investing in fossil fuels.

Finally, to the executives of CIMB: It’s time to walk the walk. The Cooler Earth Sustainability Summit is a great start. Business absolutely does have a role to play in the climate emergency. Put your money where your mouth is and stop funding fossil fuels immediately. 

To everyone else: Let’s put pressure on them until they do.

Margaret Klein Salamon

Margaret Klein Salamon PhD is a clinical psychologist and founder and executive director of The Climate Mobilization. She is the author of Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, a radical self-help guide for the climate emergency.