Credit Suisse, Dutch lender ING and France’s BNP Paribas say they will stop financing the trade in crude oil from Ecuador following pressure from campaigners aiming to protect the Amazon rainforest.
The role of European lenders in backing the trade came under scrutiny in August, when a report by advocacy groups Stand.earth and Amazon Watch named six European banks as major financiers of Ecuadorian oil exports.
Indigenous leaders battling to prevent further oil exploration in their territory said the banks’ role made them complicit in oil spills, violations of land rights and the destruction of rainforest.
“The banks’ commitment is a milestone,” Marlon Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, said.
The August report named the three banks – alongside France’s Natixis, Switzerland’s UBS, and Rabobank of the Netherlands – as the main backers of the shipment of about $US10 billion ($A13 billion) of Ecuadorian oil to the United States over the past decade.
Campaigners had accused the banks of double standards for making climate-change pledges while backing trade in oil from Ecuador.
The Amazon plays a vital role in regulating the earth’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
ING said it shared many of the concerns over protecting the Amazon outlined in the report and would review its operations.
“In the meantime, we have decided not to engage in any new contracts for the financing of oil and gas trade flows from the Ecuadorian Amazon,” ING said.
Credit Suisse said it had decided to phase out financing for oil cargoes from the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon after completing existing commitments.
BNP Paribas said it had decided in December to exclude oil exports from Ecuador’s Esmeraldas region – home to the export terminal for its Amazon oil.
Rabobank said in August it had stopped financing Ecuadorian crude shipments earlier in 2020.
UBS has stopped short of committing to end its financing of Ecuadorian crude oil cargoes. The bank said it remains committed to the highest environmental and social standards.
“As such we have declined transactions where the origin of oil is verifiably associated with breaches of our standards, such as indigenous peoples’ land rights or UNESCO World Heritage Sites,” UBS said.
Natixis financed cargoes of 5.5 million barrels of oil from the Ecuadorian Amazon from July to December – more than double the volume it backed in the first half of the year, according to analysis of US customs data by Stand.earth and Amazon Watch.
Natixis said it continued to “proactively” screen transactions for potential environmental or social risks, and understood that financing Ecuador’s oil exports could encourage plans by the industry to expand into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Yasuni National Park.
“Given this situation, Natixis has declined to finance any new clients involved in oil exports from Ecuador since mid-2020 and has reduced the number of existing clients it works with in this area,” an official said.