We’re Ending Amazon Crude | Amazon Watch
Amazon Watch

We’re Ending Amazon Crude

Human rights and environmental NGOs, alongside Indigenous organizations, are calling on all banks to Exit Amazon Oil and Gas immediately

October 21, 2021 | Pendle Marshall-Hallmark | Eye on the Amazon

Photo Credit: Ivan Castaneira

On November 1, 2021, climate activists and policy makers from all over the world will be convening at the 26th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss global efforts to address the climate crisis.

The COP is an inherently inequitable process wherein global superpowers like the U.K. and U.S. typically enjoy far greater representation and influence in deliberations over how much carbon they should cut compared to their counterparts in the Global South, and this year’s COP promises to be even more inequitable due to accessibility limitations related to COVID-19. Despite the reality that the Global North owes a great deal of its industrial and economic growth to the exploitation of natural resources from the Global South, the U.K. government has imposed a mandatory ten-day quarantine for many representatives of countries from the Global South, forcing their delegates to pay a steep entry price simply to have a seat at the negotiating table. 

Despite these obstacles, many of our Indigenous partners and leaders in the Amazon consider this COP crucial to attend. They and their communities are resisting the continued financing of oil and gas activities in the rainforest and dealing with the scourge of abuses and pollution that extraction leaves behind. The threat of further destruction is only intensifying. In Ecuador, where the majority of Amazon-origin crude oil is extracted, president Guillermo Lasso has opened up over 3 million hectares of the rainforest to be auctioned for oil development in 2022. In Peru, state-owned oil company Petroperu (which receives financing from major European and U.S. banks like Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Citigroup) is seeking to partner with a private oil company to keep its floundering operations going, despite push-back from the Wampis Nation and other Indigenous communities whose territories it is damaging.

Leaders from several Indigenous representative bodies, including the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE), and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP), plan to direct global attention to the urgent need to protect the Amazon from fossil fuel exploitation because the rainforest is at its tipping point. 

On September 10, members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), led by COICA and allies, successfully passed a measure to protect 80% of the rainforest by 2025. Endorsed by 64 ministers from 30 different countries, the IUCN mandate calls for, among other things, the legal demarcation of Indigenous lands, conditioned debt forgiveness in exchange for a permanent moratorium on industrial extraction in Indigenous territories and protected areas, and a suspension of new licensing and financing for mining, oil, cattle ranching, large dams, logging, and other industrial activities. This new measure is groundbreaking, in that it sets a political precedent that will impact COP negotiations going forward. 

Falling directly in line with the campaign to protect 80% of Amazonia by 2025 and it’s demand to end financing and licensing for industrial activities in the Amazon, campaigners at Amazon Watch and Stand.earth have teamed up with leadership from COICA, CONFENIAE, AIDESEP, and other Indigenous organizations to pressure banks to immediately adopt an exclusion policy to exit Amazon oil and gas. Together, we are united to End Amazon Crude.

The Exit Amazon Oil & Gas campaign calls on banks to to adopt an Amazon Exclusion Policy and Exit Strategy and commit to the following three points:

  • An immediate commitment (by the end of 2021 at the latest) to not finance or invest in the expansion of any oil or gas activities in the Amazon Biome.
  • A commitment to end, by 2025, financing for any and all companies currently engaged in oil or gas activities, for the purpose of facilitating the responsible wind down of operations. 
  • A commitment to exit all loans, letters of credit, and revolving credit facilities for all traders actively trading oil or gas originating in the Amazon Biome by the end of 2022.

The campaign comes out of over a year’s worth of research and investigation into the links between major European and U.S. banks, and the Amazon oil and gas industry. An initial report co-published by Amazon Watch and Stand.earth in August of 2020 revealed how European banks are financing the trade (i.e., transport) of controversial oil from the western Amazon to destinations all over the world. The report examined how these banks are actively complicit in the impacts of the oil industry on the Amazon rainforest — including oil spills, harm to Indigenous peoples, and climate destruction — despite making previous climate and human rights commitments. Following the publication of the report, some of the key banks it highlighted — ING, BNP Paribas, and Credit Suisse — came forward to commit to immediately exclude financing for the trade of oil from the western Amazon. 

Though the August report was a great step forward for the campaign, we didn’t stop there. In June of 2021, we co-published another report, this time broadening our scope of investigation to include U.S.-based as well as European banks involved in the financing of not only oil trading, but any oil and gas activities (such as drilling or refinement) in the entire Amazon biome. We found that several well known banks, including JPMorgan Chase in the U.S. and UBS in Europe, are complicit in major human rights and environmental violations in the region due to their continued financing of oil and gas companies operating there.

Campaigners are in talks with sustainability teams at several of the banks listed in our reports to initiate a conversation around what it would take to solidify an exclusion for all types of financing for any oil and gas activities in the entire biome, not just trade finance from Ecuador. The answer is clear: banks have told us themselves that they will move if they hear from Indigenous leaders, climate activists, and their own shareholders and clients. So we need to keep the pressure on them. Join our campaign by taking action to demand that banks adopt an Amazon Exclusion policy NOW.

COP presents a major opportunity to put an international spotlight on our demands, and to hold key decision makers accountable. For that reason, we will be hosting a press conference during the first week of COP with the endorsement of several key Indigenous leaders and activists to call on banks to step up their climate commitments by adopting an Amazon Exclusion policy. Banks need to hear that instead of making empty “net zero” promises to lower emissions by far-too-late deadlines, they need to take urgent and drastic action to cut fossil fuel activity now, starting in the world’s most ecologically and culturally significant places.

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