urgewald is a German non-profit organisation, whose mission is to address the underlying causes of global environmental destruction and poverty. We monitor the activities of German companies and banks abroad and educate the German public about the negative impacts of our consumption patterns on people and nature in remote places.
urgewald works with affected communities and NGOs in the global South. Over the years, we worked for example with anti-nuclear campaigners from Eastern Europe, India or Brazil, indigenous people from Brazil, whose cultures are threatened by large plantation companies or farmers in India, who are being driven off their lands for big dams. We make sure their voices are heard - in meetings with decision-makers, at shareholder meetings, in the media or through public actions.
urgewald calls on international companies and banks to step back from destructive projects and to adopt binding environmental and social standards.Since 1992 urgewald works on the reform of international financial institutions (World Bank, export credit agencies, European Investment Bank, private and state banks) and has conducted a series of public and advocacy campaigns on development, environment and finance questions.
Since 1997 urgewald works on reforming the German export credit agency EulerHermes. Together with the German organisation WEED (World Economy, Ecology and Development) we initiated a coalition of more than 100 environment and development organisations calling for a reform of the so-called Hermes guarantees. The red-green government developed guiding principles for Hermes in 2001, with one very strong point: they excluded guarantees for nuclear exports. However, the center-right government starting work in 2009 abolished these guiding principles and accepted applications for nuclear exports again.
Urgewald worked over the years on the following projects for which guarantees were applied (but not always given): 3 Gorges dam in China, Maheshwar dam in India, Tehri dam in India, Ilisu dam in Turkey, Asian Pulp and Paper in Indonesia, nuclear power plants Angra 2 and 3 in Brazil, Olkiluoto 3 in Finland, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline between Azerbaijan and Turkey.
At Deutsche Bank's shareholder meeting in May, the bank finally announced an end to its support for mountaintop removal mining (MTR). The bank had been the largest banker behind the controversial practice. Two months previously the bank announced an incremental phase-out of its MTR finance, without any timescales, which was criticised as inadequate by campaigners. The move follows years of campaigning from BankTrack alongside urgewald, Rainforest Action Network and others.
21 ethical banks pledge to stay away form coal & 9 coal banks take first steps
BankTrack launched the Paris Pledge campaign in the summer of 2015, calling on all banks to end coal financing ahead of the crucial Paris climate summit in December that year. By the time of the summit, 169 organisations and more than 10,000 individuals around the world had supported the pledge, all sending one simple message to banks: It is time to quit coal. In total, 21 small and ethical banks signed up to the Paris Pledge - all reaffirming their commitment to stay away from coal financing in any shape or form. Nine international banks also took their first steps out of coal over the course of the campaign, although these fell short of the pledge needed to quit coal entirely.
Barclays, ING, PNC pull back from Mountaintop Removal
In 2015, US bank PNC, UK bank Barclays and Dutch bank ING all announced new commitments to cut finance for the controversial practice of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. These banks join JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, RBS, BNP Paribas, and UBS - banks that have already committed to cut ties with firms that specialize in mountaintop removal.
Nine of the world's top 20 funders of coal won't touch additional coal terminals at Abbot Point
In 2014, JP Morgan, Cit, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland all responded to a worldwide pressure campaign of NGOs, including Banktrack, urgewald, Greenpeace and Market Forces, by announcing that they would not help finance the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal in Australia. While ANZ and others remain tied to the deal for now, these banks did the right thing in foregoing this destructive deal that threatens the Great Barrier Reef.
Coal India Limited's attempt at a public share issue was successfully blocked in late 2013. The Indian government, the company's majority shareholder, hoped toraise USD 3 billion through the sale of 10% of its stake in the world's largest coal miner. Banktrack was part of a coalition of groups including Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and urgewald that pressured the banks underwriting the share offer (Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs) for their involvement with a company with a notorious environmental and human rights record. Read more [external link].
In March 2012 the Bulgarian government officially
announced the cancellation of the Belene nuclear power project. BankTrack
members had worked to stop the project as part of an international coalition
since 2006, when Western potential investors and financiers were approached for
the project. In 2010 BNP
Paribas withdrew from the project after years of campaigning by Les Amis de
la Terre and others. Other banks which came under pressure to stay out of the
project included Deutsche Bank, UniCredit, Citi and HSBC.
West LB Pulls Out of Controversial Toka Tindung Gold Mine
In 2008 BankTrack members Urgewald and Berne Declaration were able to convince WestLB (now Portigon) and Credit Suise to withdraw from the controversial Toka Tindung gold mining scheme, situated close to a World Heritage site in Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Plans to establish the mines met with widespread resistance due to fears they would disrupt the ecology and economy of the region, which is based on fishing, agriculture and tourism. The victory was only partial, as the mine was able to proceed with a new syndicate of funders comprising BNP Paribas, Standard Bank and ANZ Banking Group.
German banks withdraw from Belene following Urgewald pressure
In the fall of 2006, Deutsche Bank, HypoVereinsbank
and Commerzbank withdrew from the Belene nuclear power project, sited in an
earthquake area in Northern Bulgaria. Through media work, postcards and
e-mails, visits at the banks' AGMs, an international protest day and a protest
week in 60 German cities, the banks were dissuaded from financing this
extremely controversial project. The project was eventually called off in 2012.