We are cheering support for the Arctic Refuge that is coming from the financial sector. Barclays issued a policy this week that restricts investments in fossil fuels. It is refusing to finance new oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Refuge.
The announcement comes at a time when the government is moving swiftly – even during a government shutdown – to drill in the pristine coastal regions of the Refuge that is home to polar bears, caribou, grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, muskoxen and more than 130 species of migratory birds. More than 19 million acres of wild lands in the Refuge were first set aside for protection in 1960. But last year, in a move to obtain support for the Republican tax measure from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a deal to include a provision that opens the 1.6 million- acre coastal plain region in the Arctic Refuge to oil and gas exploration.
In announcing its new policy, Barclay said, “Banks have an important role to play in ensuring the world’s energy needs are met while helping to limit the threat that climate change poses to people and to the natural environment.”
The bank is one of 12 major financial institutions to limit funding for Arctic oil and gas exploration, according to reports. Other banks announcing similar positions include National Australia Bank, HSBC, BNO Paribas, and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
While the policy could go further, it shows that banks are onto the fact that disrupting wildlife and fragile ecosystems for an energy source that directly contributes to global warming is just a bad bet. That’s why FoA is supporting the Arctic Cultural Coastal Plain Protection Act –HR 5911 – proposed by Rep. Jared Huffman of California. The Act would restore protections that had been in place for more than a century to safeguard the Refuge’s biological diversity.
In other words, chill, baby, chill on any drilling.