Three European Banks Divest from Oil in Ecuadorian Amazon

Image: Renan Bomtempo/Pexels

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

Following a 2020 report exposing six European banks as major financiers of oil extraction in the Amazon Rainforest, three of those banks, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, and ING, are now pledging to divest from oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. 

  • The three banks account for $5.5 billion in Ecuadorian Amazon oil financing since 2009. 
  • The six banks cited in the report produced by environmental groups Amazon Watch and Stand.earth, have financed over 155 million barrels of oil exports to the U.S. that produced an estimated 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Why This Matters: While it’s easy to tag fossil fuel companies and industry as the primary drivers of environmental destruction, a 2020 report from portfolio.earth found that they had quite a lot of help from banks. 

  • In 2019, the world’s largest banks invested $2.6 trillion into industries that damage the environment, and many provided financial services tied to destruction valued at more than Canada’s GDP. 

The Amazon is one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, absorbing about two billion tons of CO2 each year, 5% of the world’s annual emissions. But now, the rainforest is burning, drying out, and experiencing less rainfall. It’s gotten so bad that without immediate action to halt the destruction of the rainforest, it will begin to convert into a savannah. 

What Now?

These three banks have all announced divestment to varying degrees.

  • ING announced it would review its investments stating that in the meantime, “we have decided not to engage in any new contracts for the financing of oil and gas trade flows from the Ecuadorian Amazon.”
  • Credit Suisse will be phasing out financing for oil exports in both the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazons. 
  • BNP Paribas announced it would stop financing oil exports from Ecuador’s Esmeraldas region.

But others have stopped short of making a commitment. UBS and Nataxis say they will continue to finance the extraction of oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon, but say that they will monitor their investments for environmental impact and keep an open dialogue with Indigenous communities. Unsurprisingly, locals aren’t about to take their word for it.

 

Human Impact

The Ecuadorian Amazon is home to 500,000 Indigenous people, and their health and stability are threatened by the continued expansion of oil drilling in the region. In November, Kichwa communities living along rivers self-quarantined to prevent COVID-19, hoping to live off of local fishing and farming to avoid travel. Instead, two damaged oil pipelines spilled thousands of barrels of crude oil into the water, leaving over 27,000 Indigenous residents unable to fish or farm on their own lands. “The banks that finance this destruction are complicit in what is a genocidal threat for us, and an existential threat for humanity and our planet,” said Marlon Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon

Leaders like Vargas hope that this decision will lead to more oil divestment in the region. “The decision of these banks to stop financing trade of Amazon crude from our territories is a major milestone in our effort to protect our lands, our lives, and our cultures,” he said.

 

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