Goldman Sachs earned cautious praise from environmental advocacy groups Sunday after the bank announced it would not finance new Arctic oil drilling or exploration and ruled out funding new thermal coal mines and coal-fired power plant projects worldwide.
"This new policy from Goldman Sachs raises the bar for other U.S. banks if they want to be taken seriously on climate change," said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, climate and energy senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
THIS IS A BIG DEAL: @goldmansachs just published the strongest fossil finance policy by a major U.S. bank. Short version: they're ruling out financing new Arctic oil and coal projects, and committing to exit coal mining. Long version: https://t.co/JUAwnkBGxz #defundclimatechange pic.twitter.com/g74BnTxJcm— Jason Opeña Disterhoft (@jasondisterhoft) December 15, 2019
In its new energy policy Goldman said, in part:
We recognize that we have an impact on the environment through our operations, our investments, and the production and services we finance on behalf of our clients. As an institution that brings providers and users of capital together, we believe that capital markets can and should play an important role in addressing environmental challenges including climate change.
The commitment related to Arctic drilling and exploration, Goldman said, "includes but is not limited to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." The Trump administration has pushed to open the previously protected area to fossil fuel exploration despite Indigenous opposition and threat of adverse ecological impacts.
"The Trump administration may not care about ignoring the will of the American people or trampling Indigenous rights, but a growing number of major financial institutions are making it clear that they do," said Sierra Club campaign representative Ben Cushing. "Goldman Sachs is right to recognize that destroying the Arctic Refuge would be bad business."
Sierra Club, in its press statement, said that Goldman is the first major U.S. bank to make the commitments not to fund new coal projects or Arctic oil drilling. Still, the bank—which ranked this year among the "top dirty dozen" banks in terms of fossil fuel financing—must go further in terms of climate commitments, added Sierra Club, saying that Goldman Sachs did not rule out funding new fracking and tar sands projects.
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So this doesn’t make @goldmansachs a global leader on fossil finance. And this is far from what the science demands, which is to (1) end support for expansion of all fossil fuels and (2) commitment to phaseout on a timeline at least as ambitious as the IPCC P1 1.5°C pathway.— Jason Opeña Disterhoft (@jasondisterhoft) December 15, 2019
According to 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Goldman's new commitment "leaves a lot to do, but it's a big start—such thanks to all who have fought to make it happen!"
Among the grassroots activists engaged in that is the Gwich'in Steering Committee, who see the threat of their sacred land in the Arctic being pillaged by the Trump administration's possible fossil fuel plunder.
In response to my question today, $GS CEO David Solomon indicated it would be unlikely the bank would finance Arctic Refuge drilling. If that's the case, @GoldmanSachs should make that clear and say so in their environmental policy. @SierraClub will be watching. #ProtectTheArctic https://t.co/x64rsBwtm7— Ben Cushing (@bmcushing) May 2, 2019
Sierra Club and RAN say it's now up to other financial institutions to make similar moves—and for Goldman to be even bolder in its climate commitments.
"Goldman Sachs's updated policy shows that U.S. banks can draw red lines on oil and gas, and now other major U.S. banks, especially JPMorgan Chase—the world's worst banker of fossil fuels by a wide margin—must improve on what Goldman has done," said Opeña Disterhoft. "The writing was already on the wall for coal financing," he added. "Goldman Sachs's new policy puts that writing in flashing neon."
"The smart money on Wall Street is drawing red lines on oil and gas, and exiting coal. The big money has to respond, or it will be left holding the bag," Opeña Disterhoft said. "Over to you, Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase."