Since the US government announced that it would move forward with the oil and gas project at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ANWR, Inuit groups, environmental groups and political parties have spoken out clearly against the plans. According to opponents, the multibillion-dollar project is neither technically mature nor environmentally justifiable. Some major banks have already spoken out against co-financing. Now Canada’s largest bank has decided not to finance direct drilling projects in the ANWR.
The Bank waives direct financing of all possible drilling projects in the wilderness area due to its “ecological and social significance and vulnerability,” according to a press release. The waiver also includes transactions in projects and is part of the Bank’s new policy. With its decision, RBC joins 24 other banks in North America that have opposed the financing of the multibillion-dollar project. These include heav weights such as Citi Bank, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.
For indigenous organizations and tribes that have been fighting the project for years, the news is a great success. “Companies, governments, organizations are starting to take notice and recognize that any development in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is just simply bad business,” says Ken Smith, head of the Gwich’in Tribal Council. “We urge other Canadian chartered banks to make the moral choice and stand with us and our allies in this fight.” The Gwich’in tribe is particularly affected by the Trump administration’s drilling plans. Because the streets to the drilling area and the pipelines would cut through migration routes of the Porcubine reindeer herd. The ecological damage would be enormous and the Gwich’in would lose an important food base.
Other Tribes of Canada’s First Nations and Inuit have also welcomed the RBC’s decision and are calling on other banks and organizations to reconsider their cooperation with the project. The project, which was relaunched by President Trump in 2017, is not new. There is a tug-of-war between Democrats and Republicans over the resource-rich region. President George W. Bush had already given green lights to the project, which was then halted by President Obama. By presidential decree, he had wanted to place the area under protection from exploration projects. But his successor, Donald Trump, repealed the decree. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was commissioned with a feasibility study. But the agency missed to include Gwich’in communities on the Canadian side in relation to the porcubine herd, which is one of the most important in North America. Currently, a complaint of human rights violations by the exploration plans filed by Gwich’in representatives with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is being investigated.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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