Big Banks Just Flunked Their Own Test on Climate, Indigenous Rights

On October 16, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Crédit Agricole and 91 other global banks met in Washington, DC, to revise the Equator Principles, industry-led due diligence standards meant to prevent banks from supporting environmentally and socially harmful projects.

On the very same day, in a bitter irony, many of those same banks re-upped their support for Enbridge, the Canadian company behind the Line 3 tar sands pipeline, which tramples Indigenous rights and is flatly incompatible with the goals of the Paris climate agreement. They did so just days after the publication of a landmark United Nations report showing the desperate urgency of taking concrete steps to tackle the climate crisis. It’s as if the banks wanted to supply their own headline example of exactly why the Equator Principles are broken and in dire need of repair.

The current round of soul-searching around the Equator Principles dates back to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the Indigenous-led campaign calling out the banks behind the project. DAPL was a crisis for those banks, and it was a scandal for the Equator Principles Association. How did such an obviously flawed project pass muster?

In response to activist pressure, in 2017, the Equator Principles Association agreed to a revision process, including examining how the principles deal with the internationally accepted standard that projects cannot be built unless directly impacted Indigenous communities give their free, prior and informed consent. The Equator Principles currently ignore these principles in rich countries like the US — and ignore climate impacts everywhere.

It’s astonishing that the banks were discussing those revisions on exactly the same day that many of them reaffirmed their support for Enbridge, when the Line 3 pipeline — the company’s largest new investment — is in danger of becoming DAPL 2.0. In a clear echo of DAPL, Enbridge has…

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