As Big Banks Meet, #DivestTheGlobe Demands Rejection of Fossil Fuel's Dead End
"They have a moral obligation to listen to us," says one community organizer, "to invest in sustainable energy projects which bring lasting growth and jobs not built on dying industries like coal and oil."
As more than 90 of the world's major banks meet in Brazil on Monday, indigenous people and climate activists have launched a three-day international #DivestTheGlobe movement to encourage people and institutions to stop using banks that invest in constructing dirty energy infrastructure like oil and gas pipelines.
"Big oil, multinational corporations, and their financial backers are not persuaded by moral and environmental arguments.... They're capitalist and they are persuaded by one thing, money."
—Matt Remle, Mazaska Talks
"Starting on Monday, we are calling for three days of action around the world that makes the connection between banks and desecration projects, whether that's the tar sands pipelines and the banks that finance those, a deforestation project, coal mines, or a local refinery," Jackie Fielder, an organizer with Mazaska Talks, told YES! magazine.
Fielder's organization is leading the protest, with support from major groups including 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club.
"We want to raise the public's awareness and to raise the banks' awareness that we are well aware of who is financing these projects," said Fielder, echoing a video made to promote the global protests, "and—whether it's a sit-in, vigil, nonviolent direct action, art space, or teach-in—we want people to meet the community where it's at and educate one another about the relationship between these banks and these fossil fuel projects."
The various actions, which are being held in dozens of cities across North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, coincide with the annual meeting of the Equator Principles Association, a collection of financial institutions that adopt a risk management framework called Equator Principles "for determining, assessing, and managing environmental and social risk in projects."
One of the topics reportedly being discussed at the meeting is "Free Prior and Informed Consent," a principle established in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that "requires states to consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them."
"We have the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent of projects impacting our survival, our cultures, and our futures," said Joye Braun, a community organizer with Indigenous Environmental Network. "We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the frontlines but every person on this planet."
"They have a moral obligation to listen to us," Braun added, "to invest in sustainable energy projects which bring lasting growth and jobs not built on dying industries like coal and oil."
"We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the frontlines but every person on this planet."
—Joye Braun, Indigenous Environmental Network
"Responsible banks don't put their money into projects that bulldoze Indigenous rights, jeopardize clean water, threaten wildlife, and destabilize our climate," said Alex Speers-Roesch, a finance campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.
"As the world's biggest banks meet to discuss Indigenous rights in Brazil," Speers-Roesch declared, "we're standing with Mazaska Talks and Indigenous leaders everywhere who are resisting destructive fossil fuel projects."
In a statement, Mazaska Talks illustrated the effectiveness of campaigning for divestment by pointing to a recent lawsuit filed by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), who owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, against Greenpeace and other organizers who called on banks to divest from the project as part of major protests against the pipeline.
ETP acknowledged the impact of the groups' strategy in their suit, stating, "the damage to plaintiffs' relationships with the capital markets has been substantial, impairing access to financing and increasing their cost of capital and ability to fund future projects at economical rates."
Although Greenpeace and the other defendants are still fighting the case in court, last week a federal court dismissed a similar lawsuit filed against Greenpeace and others by the same law firm, on behalf of a Canadian logging company.
"Big oil, multinational corporations, and their financial backers are not persuaded by moral and environmental arguments. Nor do they even care for following the rule of law, as we have witnessed violation after violation of Tribal Nations' treaty rights," noted Matt Remle, co-Founder of Mazaska Talks. "They're capitalist and they are persuaded by one thing, money."
"Anyone with a brain, not to mention a conscience, should put their money in a bank that actually thinks the planet has a future," concluded 350.org's Bill McKibben, "instead of one that scrambles for the shortest of short term gains at any cost."