By Alec Connon, 350 Seattle
“We call on individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments to withdraw their money from these financial institutions until they divest from these pipeline companies who are violating our rights, our treaties and our sovereignty.”
— Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs on behalf of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion
There are many reasons why targeting the financial sector makes sense. For one, it’s already working. In its lawsuit against Greenpeace and others, Energy Transfer Partners bemoaned the fact that, as a result of the huge wave of protest that erupted earlier this year under the banner #DeFundDAPL, they are now struggling to fund future projects: “The damage to our relationships with the capital markets has been substantial,” reads the lawsuit, “Impairing access to financing and increasing [our] cost of capital and our ability to fund future projects”
That the banks now regard Energy Transfer Partners as a poison chalice is unsurprising. Wall Street banks lost literally billions of dollars because of their financing of DAPL — individuals removed over $83 million; cities like Seattle, Missoula and Davis, CA, divested well over $4 billion. Of course the banks have increased the interest rates (i.e: the cost of capital) on the loans they offer Energy Transfer. What is heartening to hear is that they have done so to such an extent that ETP is now struggling to “fund future projects”
Moreover, since #DeFundDAPL exploded across the country US Bank, ING Bank and Desjardins, the largest association of credit unions in North America, have moved towards significant policy changes regards their support of the fossil fuel industry.
The reasons that banks like US Bank have been made to move, and that ETP is struggling to fund future projects, are clear. Here’s but a few of them: Between January and April, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C, Philadelphia, Missoula, Davis, Santa Monica, and Providence all made moves towards breaking ties with banks financing the Dakota Access; during that time protests at banks exploded throughout the country; in April, Seattle City Council followed up its breakup with Wells Fargo by voting unanimously to avoid banking with any financial institution that provides loans to Keystone XL; in May, activists used nonviolent civil disobedience to shut down thirteen branches of JPMorgan Chase across the City of Seattle; Mazaksa Talks, a coalition of Indigenous-led groups the Treaty Alliance, a coalition of over 150 First Nations and tribes, issued a call for individuals and organizations to boycott the tar sands banks; in July, a coalition of sixteen national environmental groups, representing over 13 million supporters and including the Sierra Club, 350.org, CREDO, Friends of the Earth and League of Conservation Voters, responded, announcing that they would be boycotting the banks funding tar sands.
In the face of all this, it’s important to remember that, on average, fossil fuels only represent between 1% to 4% of the big banks’ assets. Of course, there will come a time when investing in fossil fuels will no longer be worth the reputational (and financial) damage that such investments cause the bank. Indeed, is our job as climate activists to force that time as quickly as possible.
That is why on October 23-25, activists across the globe will unite to tell banks that financing fossil fuel projects is not acceptable business practice. In the US, there are already protests confirmed for New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C, LA, Seattle, the list goes on.
As part of this action, Mazaska Talks will be providing a letter to action hosts and encouraging them to deliver it to bank managers as part of their action — in Seattle we will be delivering the letter and this petition to 100 banks in a single day.
The letter, addressed to the CEOs of the tar sands funding banks, will be signed by dozens of environmental organizations — including some of the country’s largest environmental groups.
The letter reads:
On October 23rd, ninety-two of the world’s largest banks are meeting in São Paolo, Brazil to discuss environmental and social risk management policies regarding the climate and Indigenous People’s rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC).
We are writing today to inform you that we are boycotting your bank. We are taking this action as a result of your financing of new tar sands pipelines ― including Kinder-Morgan’s Trans-Mountain; Trans-Canada’s Keystone XL; and Enbridge’s Line 3. As with the Dakota Access Pipeline, these plans violate Indigenous People’s rights to Free, Prior and Informed consent, as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Furthermore ― given that tar sands is the most greenhouse gas intensive of fossil fuels ― the construction of these pipelines are entirely incompatible with achieving the goal of curtailing catastrophic climate change, as agreed to by 194 nations in Paris in 2015.
As such, not only shall we be boycotting your bank, but will also be actively encouraging individuals, institutions and cities around the world to move towards banks that place the Earth and the people before profits.
The hope is that, if this letter is delivered by activists, on the same day, all over the country, it may actually end up in the hands of the CEO’s that it’s addressed too; and that, in turn, the CEO’s may start to think twice about the impact that funding tar sands is having on their business.
That this action is being coordinated globally is important. This is a global problem, and the more we can show the banks that we are acting in a unified, coordinated manner across the country, and the planet, the more they will see us as a credible threat; and one that should be listened to.
You can help Mazaska Talks deliver their message by doing three things:
- Signing up to host, or take part in an action.
- Adding the name of your organization to the letter here
- Having your organization join the boycott, by filling out this form.
Going after the financial sector is a essentially an attempt to put a chokehold on the fossil fuel industry; to cut it off from the funding upon which its dependent to survive. New fossil fuel infrastructure projects rely upon large loans for their construction. (The Dakota Access pipeline, for example, was a $3.8 billion pipeline, $2.5 billion of which came from bank loans.) Without huge bank loans, the fossil fuel companies simply don’t have enough liquid capital to build new projects. Or put another way: if you stop the flow of dollars, you keep the oil in the ground.
Which is what this is all about. Keeping the oil in the ground.
Join us on October 23rd and help us do that.