The largest banks are gradually renouncing oil and gas drilling projects in the Arctic
After Goldman Sachs last December and JP Morgan Chase in February, it’s the turn of the Swiss bank UBS to announce in early March the withdrawal of its investment in offshore oil and gas drilling in Alaska.
Not so long ago, UBS invested some 300 million dollars to fund drilling activities in the region*. Now, the Swiss bank is following in the footsteps of three major American financial institutions: Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Wells & Fargo**.
The tide is therefore turning, to the great relief of the local Native American communities. Following JP Morgan Chase’s announcement at the end of February 2020, Bernadette Demientieff, a member of the steering committee for the Gwich’in Indian Nation, stated: “We are delighted that the largest American banks recognize that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is no longer a suitable site for investment of this kind. We hope that other banks and the oil companies that they fund follow suit.”
However, Larry Persily, former coordinator for gas line projects under President Barack Obama, points out that major oil companies in Alaska can still finance themselves in order to grow. Although he qualifies this by saying that if bank disinvestment continues, smaller-sized operators would undoubtedly find it difficult to keep afloat, as they are unable to fund their projects.
To date, according to Banktrack, 16 banks have renounced any investment in this part of the world. This movement began in 2017 following Shell’s loss of interest in this part of the planet in 2015***.
* Between 2016 and 2018, according to the North American environmental organization Rainforest Action Network.
** Respectively in December 2019, February and March 2020.
*** 3 reasons why Shell halted drilling in the Arctic, September 2015, National Geographic
© James Brooks / AP / SIPA