Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Climate campaigners continue to demand all banks reject financing of climate-wrecking projects.

Climate campaigners continue to demand all banks reject financing of climate-wrecking projects. (Photo: ItzaFineDay/flickr/cc)

As Wells Fargo Joins Banks Rejecting Funding of Arctic Drilling, Pressure Heats Up on Others to 'Do Their Part'

Bill McKibben called the development a "victory for the Gwich'in, the wildlife, and the planet."

Andrea Germanos

Environmental advocates and indigenous groups on Monday welcomed the news that Wells Fargo would not finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic, including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—an area the Trump administration is poised to open for fossil fuel exploration—the latest victory in a pressure campaign on banks over their role in abetting the climate crisis.

According to Sierra Club, the announcement came in an update to the banking giant's environmental policy. "Wells Fargo does not directly finance oil and gas projects in the Arctic region, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)—part of a larger 2018 risk-based decision to forego participation in any project-specific transaction in the region," the document (pdf) states.

"In just the last three months, half of the top six U.S. banks have rejected funding Arctic drilling."
—Ben Cushing, Sierra Club
The update was not, however, met with full-throttled cheers from climate advocates. "The update does not make improvements to the bank's other oil and gas financing policies," Sierra Club noted.

Yet something remarkable appears to be shifting. Wells Fargo is not the only bank forgoing financing Arctic development. Just last week, JPMorgan Chase ruled out financing new oil and gas development in the Arctic. In December, Goldman Sachs announced it would not finance such projects either.

Putting the new development in context, Sierra Club campaign representative Ben Cushing said on Twitter, "In just the last three months, half of the top six U.S. banks have rejected funding Arctic drilling."

Cushing called out the other three major U.S. banks—Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley—and asked, "Which one of you wants to be last of the bunch to #ProtectTheArctic & #StandWithTheGwichin?"

The latter hashtag is in reference to the Gwich'in, the indigenous people who call the coastal plain of the refuge—the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd—"the sacred place where life begins."

They've fought against development of ANWR, saying it threatened "cultural genocide."

"For years, we have been speaking out about the need to keep drill rigs out of our sacred lands in the Arctic Refuge, and it's amazing that a growing number of major banks are listening," said Gwich'in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Demientieff. "The Arctic Refuge is critical to our people's food security and way of life. Our human rights will not be dismissed."

"The fight to protect this place is far from over," she continued, "and we will continue to hold accountable any bank, oil company, or politician that seeks to benefit from its destruction."

Author Bill McKibben, founder of the climate advocacy group, called the new development a "victory for the Gwich'in, the wildlife, and the planet."

There are signs that fight over fossil fuel extraction in the area could soon reach a critical moment. According to Bloomberg News, former fossil fuel lobbying Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Saturday the Trump administration is "about to finalize a leasing plan" for ANRW—a prospect that's previously drawn ire over ecological and human rights impacts.

"The Trump administration still hasn't given up on trying to sell off the Arctic Refuge for drilling, but oil companies should pay close attention to the events of the past few months and think twice before bidding," said Sierra Club's Cushing.

Dozens of House Democrats recently issued a letter pushing bank CEOs to do their part to protect the refuge, calling on them to follow in the steps of Goldman with regards to Arctic project financing.

"Any development in the coastal plain would permanently destroy this critically important intact ecosystem. We urge you to take a leadership role in recognizing that investing in a project that would threaten human rights and worsen the climate crisis is an expensive risk that's not worth taking," said the letter.

"The House of Representatives understands the importance of protecting the Arctic Refuge, which is why we approved legislation last year to protect this important landscape from destructive oil and gas exploration. Now is the time for banks to do their part," the lawmakers wrote.

The Wells Fargo announcement also comes a day after Democratic presidential primary candidate Elizabeth Warren released a plan "to stop Wall Street from financing the climate crisis."

Warren pointed to actions including Goldman's recent Arctic announcement and called for using the power of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to make companies account for climate risks.

"While these actions are a small step in the right direction," wrote Warren, "they are long overdue given the relative impact the financial industry has had on the climate crisis—and they're not enough to protect us from a climate-fueled financial collapse, either."

"We will not defeat the climate crisis if we have to wait for the financial industry to self-regulate or come forward with piecemeal voluntary commitments," she wrote.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·

'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·

To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo