2017-12-20 Ryan Brightwell – BankTrack
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As 2018 approaches, we look back at a remarkable year of campaigning on banks and the impacts of their finance on people and planet.
- In January, the brand new President of the USA signed an executive order to fast-track the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) as one of his first priorities, and we continued fighting the financing of the pipeline in support of the water protectors still camped at Standing Rock. This included reporting on which of the banks financing DAPL had declined to meet with Indigenous leaders. We also called on five European banks to withdraw from the Punta Catalina coal project in the Dominican Republic. And a paper arrived on our desks from the Thun Group of banks.
- In February, we helped organise and deliver a petition signed by over 700,000 people demanding banks stop financing DAPL, a watershed moment in the #DefundDAPL campaign. We also sent a Valentines’ message to the Thun Group banks on behalf of 30+ civil society organisations and academics in response to their paper, calling for its withdrawal as it flew in the face of UN advice on banks’ human rights responsibilities. The response was quickly echoed by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and by John Ruggie, the architect of the Principles, who wrote to the banks that he was “deeply troubled” by the paper, which has just been revised. And Japanese and Singaporean banks stepped in to finance a new coal plant in Indonesia, TJB2, after French banks pulled out, helping deepen Indonesia’s dependence on coal for decades to come.
- In March, ING and DNB became the first banks to sell their share of the DAPL project loan, disentangling themselves from the project but leaving its impacts unaddressed. And the pipeline fight (and our library of Dodgy Deal profiles) widened to encompass TransCanada and Keystone XL in North America as well as TAP in Europe. We also produced a briefing on another Indonesian coal plant, Cirebon 2, highlighting areas of non-compliance with the Equator Principles.
- In April, Ex-Im bank of India confirmed $1.6 billion in finance for the Rampal coal plant in Bangladesh, ignoring the voices of the 141 organisations BankTrack had rallied against its finance, as well as thousands of protesters locally and their supporters around the world.
- In May, we accompanied Enrique de León of Dominican climate group CNLCC on a tour of Annual Meetings of banks financing the scandal-mired Punta Catalina coal project, and published six AGM briefing papers on banks’ coal finance. We also released a briefing paper examining the responses of 26 banks financing Trafigura and Vitol to allegations of dumping of high-sulphur fuel in several African countries, showing that seven banks reported engaging with the companies but none had pressed for any changes. And we co-filed a complaint against ING for violation of the OECD guidelines on climate change.
- June saw ten banks write to the Equator Principles Association demanding changes following Equator banks’ finance for DAPL, as the pipeline became operational. Meanwhile TD Bank and RBC led the financing of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, despite clear and sustained opposition from First Nations peoples and many others. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided detailed advice to banks in a letter to BankTrack, in advance of a meeting of the Thun Group. And we launched the latest Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card together with RAN, Sierra Club and Oil Change, showing a fall in finance for extreme fossil fuels in 2016, but in the context of finance for extreme oil, gas and coal at rates which will push us well beyond Paris targets.
- July was the month of four-letter acronyms, as the European Commission’s HLEG High Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance produced its interim report, and eleven banks announced they would work with UNEP on new tools for implementing the TCFD recommendations (although all eleven remained open to project finance for coal, as we commented).
- In August we launched a major new campaign, “Equator Banks, Act!”, by gathering a coalition of environmental, human rights and Indigenous organisations to call for a revision of the Equator Principles. We also read in the media that the company behind DAPL would be suing BankTrack, alongside Greenpeace and others, for our work to alert banks to the risks of financing DAPL. The allegations are an absurd fantasy we find hard to take seriously, but we know this is designed to distract us and sap our resources and we’re determined to avoid that happening. We’ve moved to dismiss the lawsuit.
- September saw us working around the clock to mobilize support for the Equator Banks campaign, after a less-than-promising initial response from the EP Association (although we also found time to launch Dodgy Deal profiles on the Est-For Pulp Mill in Estonia, the Lamu coal plant in Kenya and the Çırpılar coal plant in Turkey).
- In October we presented the Equator banks with a call for change from over 110,000 individuals and just shy of 250 organisations as they gathered for their annual meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil (and we wondered where our invite had got to…). At the same time our allies at Mazaska Talks coordinated three days of resistance and protest under the banner of #DivestTheGlobe, and BNP Paribas set the example by exiting finance for companies focused on tar sands, fracking, or Arctic drilling.
- Then at the start of November we got the news that, contrary to all indications in the run-up to the meeting, the Equator banks really had decided to act - a big victory for our campaign, but one that marks the start of the hard work of making sure the revision delivers.
- Which brings us to December, and to close the year we launched a briefing paper profiling eight cases in which we consider banks have likely contributed to human rights abuses, and a flagship new report “Banks vs the Paris Agreement”, which together with urgewald and other allies examines the banks financing the 120 biggest coal plant developers. We launched the report at the One Planet Summit in Paris, which saw a major divestment announcement from AXA, a smattering of positive policy moves from banks, and US Ex-Secretary of State John Kerry getting the biggest applause of the day for his remark that “the financing of the coal industry must come to a complete end. PERIOD.” It's official - the message that banks need to quit coal for good hits the mainstream.
Feel just a tiny bit impressed at what a team of eight people helped achieve over the course of a year? Make a small gift to BankTrack to help us meet the challenges head-on in 2018.
Write to us and tell us what you think we should do better, differently or more of, in 2018 - or just drop us a note to say hello: firstname.lastname@example.org