The Snowball Keeps Rolling

by Charlie Kronick

June 20, 2018

In the past year, a steady stream of international financial institutions — major lenders, investors, and insurers — have distanced themselves from pipelines and the industry connected to them.

Trampling on the rights of Indigenous communities, threatening safe drinking water and wildlife, as well as fatally undermining efforts to tackle climate change, the Canadian tar sands are the bottom of the oil industry barrel. Recognising that the growth of the tar sands is incompatible with claims on climate action, the last year has seen a steady stream of international financial institutions — major lenders, investors, and insurers — distance themselves from this extreme oil and the pipelines that are essential to bring it to market.

In 2017, as my colleague Diana Best pointed out in December, 8 major financial institutions announced decisions to either no longer lend to, to divest from, or to refuse insurance underwriting services to tar sands companies, projects, and/or pipelines. These were ING in the Netherlands, Sweden’s largest pension fund AP7, US Bank, French banks BNP Paribas (the world’s 8th biggest bank), Crédit Agricole (still on our “Dirty Dozen” list.), Société Générale and Natixis, as well AXA the world’s 3rd largest insurer.   

Dozens of Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline project opponents protest outside Kinder Morgan’s terminal gate in Burnaby, British-Columbia.

2018 kicked off with Spanish bank BBVA pledging to no longer provide finance to tar sands exploration and production projects (note: they also remain on our “Dirty Dozen” list.), a move replicated by Royal Bank of Scotland just last month.

But it was in April 2018 that we saw what is perhaps the most significant move to date in the financial exodus from the tar sands. HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, confirmed that it will no longer provide project loans for new tar sands projects — including the construction of new pipelines. This hugely significant announcement means HSBC won’t be financing TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Enbridge’s Line 3 Expansion pipelines.

In addition to ruling out project finance, HSBC’s new policy also confirms that the bank will not provide even general corporate loans to companies if they feel that 50% or more will go to new tar sands projects or pipeline construction.  HSBC also “anticipates that its attributed commitments to oilsands will reduce over time.”  One of the biggest banks in the world is letting their money do the talking — and the money says that as far HSBC is concerned, the end of the road for the tar sands is in sight.

Meanwhile, the prospects for pipelines are not bright.  The decision taken at the end of May by the Canadian Federal Government to purchase Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP)  — one of three major pipelines proposed to get the tar sands to market — is further evidence that confidence in these projects is eroding fast — even amongst pipeline companies. Opposition to TMEP is still growing: from Indigenous communities in Canada — both on the ground and in the courts — as well as political pushback from the Provincial Government of British Columbia and the neighbouring state of Washington in the USA.  

Terry's Climb

Meet Terry. This 70-year-old grandfather scaled and camped out in a tree directly in the proposed path of Kinder Morgan's – in his own words – "monstrosity of a pipeline." The threats of this pipeline to water, land, climate, and community are real. Add your name to #ProtectThePacific now >>

Posted by Greenpeace Canada on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

And these problems aren’t limited to TMEP.  Keystone XL and Line 3 face challenges as well: delays, regulatory hurdles, legal challenges, grassroots opposition and massive cost escalation, as well as the potential for reputation and environmental damage.    

All of which begs the question as to why some banks still think these tar sands pipelines are a good place for their money. Greenpeace is asking 12 Banks to make stronger commitments when it comes to the financing of tar sands pipelines.

For some, that means taking the obvious step of committing to not provide money specifically to build any of the proposed tar sands pipelines. For others who have already taken that step, it means making the next necessary move and committing to not provide any financial services to pipeline companies that might directly or indirectly support the acquisition, construction, expansion, or operation, of any of the tar sands pipelines. All these banks have room for improvement.

Attempted petition delivery to TD Bank administration, but the bank would not accept the 23,000 signatures presented at the door. A banner reads “Stop financing tar sands pipelines”.

These 12 banks, Barclays in the UK, JPMorgan Chase, Citi,  and Wells Fargo in the US, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion in Canada, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and Mizuho Bank in Japan; BBVA in Spain, and Credit Agricole in France, in one way or another, still have financial relationships with tar sands pipelines projects, related pipeline companies, and/or another problematic pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Some continue to remain in the DAPL project loan, despite the controversies relating to the events at Standing Rock and beyond. Others stayed out of the project loan but continue to finance the company. We are pushing these banks to end their financial relationship with ETP and relevant subsidiaries.

You can take a stand to protect water, wildlife, and our shared climate. Tell these banks that to protect the environment, respect Indigenous rights, safeguard communities across national and sovereign territories from toxic spills, and prevent runaway climate change, they MUST confirm they will not provide financial support for any dirty tar sands pipelines and/or Energy Transfer Partners, the company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline.

By Charlie Kronick

Charlie Kronick is Senior Programme Advisor at Greenpeace UK. He has worked in the fields of environment and development as an activist, campaigner and writer for nearly three decades. He has focussed for most of the last 10 years on energy and climate change related issues, and on the risks to capital markets from investment in high carbon infrastructure.

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