Natixis to halt trade financing of Amazon oil by April 2022

Friday April 16, 2021

French bank joins growing list of banks making Amazon exclusions, following groundbreaking report by Stand.earth and Amazon Watch exposing $10 billion USD in trade financing by European banks

PARIS, FRANCE — French corporate and investment bank Natixis has published a commitment to end trade financing in Ecuadorian crude oil, joining a growing list of banks making Amazon statements this year. The announcement marks Natixis as the only bank to update its policy to officially include all Ecuadorian oil and gas in its list of exclusions, after a groundbreaking report by Stand.earth and Amazon Watch in 2020 exposed $10 billion USD in trade financing by European banks. 

The organizations will be releasing a comprehensive scorecard ranking 15 major banks for their oil trade and financing of oil and gas expansion that threatens the Amazon later this year. 

According to its website, "Natixis commits to significantly reduce the volumes of Ecuadorian crude oil it will finance in 2021 and will stop any trade financing of Ecuadorian crude oil by April 2022." This follows commitments earlier this year from BNP Paribas Group, Credit Suisse, and ING to immediately exclude new Ecuadorian Amazon oil from their trading activities. 

Indigenous and advocacy groups responded to the official policy:

“It's a triumph for the struggle of the Amazonian nationalities that an important bank makes public its decision to put aside the Ecuadorian oil trade. This action reaffirms the goals of the Amazon region and the historical struggles of Indigenous peoples for a healthy environment and a just and dignified society — without the impacts of oil extraction that have affected the peoples of the Amazon for 50 years," said Marlon Vargas, President of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONFENIAE). “This is a great step forward and sets a precedent for more banks to reflect on their actions in the face of this problem and make radical decisions to curb environmental pollution and climate change. The positive results of these decisions will begin to come to light and will set an example for more entities to stop seeing the Amazon as a source of raw material extraction and to value what we truly are: a diversity of peoples and cultures with an immense ecological and natural wealth.”

“Natixis’ commitment is a step in the right direction and shows that oil coming from such a critical bio-culturally diverse region in the Ecuadorian Amazon will increasingly be stigmatized and seen as high risk and controversial. It’s the last place on Earth where oil drilling should be expanding," said Tyson Miller, Forest Programs Director at Stand.earth.

“Natixis is still financing the trade of Amazon crude until April 2022, but its commitment today shows its willingness to follow through with re-assessing existing clients against risk-based financing exclusions that protect biodiversity and Indigenous rights. All banks with similar exclusions who do not yet consider their exposure to negative environmental and social impact from their financing and investments in Amazon oil should take notice," said Angeline Robertson, Senior Investigative Researcher at Stand.earth Research Group.

NATIXIS FOLLOWS OTHER EUROPEAN BANKS

This new policy follows a January announcement that European banks BNP Paribas Group, Credit Suisse, and ING – the top three banks collectively responsible for financing the trade of $5.5 billion USD in Amazon oil to the U.S. since 2009 — had committed to the immediate exclusion of new Ecuadorian Amazon oil from their trading activities. 

At the time, Natixis told Reuters it would look into the concerns raised in the report when Stand.earth research showed that it was the only bank among the top 6 to make any trades in Amazon oil after the release of the report. It provided trade financing for 5.5 million barrels of Amazon oil from Ecuador from July to December 2020, more than double the volume it financed in the first half of the year. Ongoing spills, the lack of accountability, and safeguards against future contamination are some of the issues brought to the attention of Natixis and the other banks financing the trade of Amazon crude.

"With this new commitment to exclude trade finance for Ecuadorian crude, Natixis demonstrates its understanding that investing in Amazon crude drilling or trading brings significant environmental, human rights, and climate risk. Any credible bank climate commitment must recognize that the race to avoid climate catastrophe and meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5C requires a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel production and that the Amazon is one of the first places where that phase-out should happen," said Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director at Amazon Watch.

"Natixis’ policy to end its trade financing of Ecuadorian crude is a searing indictment of Ecuador’s environmental and Indigenous rights record. It sends a clear message to the country’s new government that there are financial consequences for the country’s drill and spill practices, ongoing rights violations, and plans to expand drilling deeper and deeper into the pristine, frontier rainforest and Indigenous territories. We are calling on other banks to follow suit and end all financing of Amazon crude," said Kevin Koenig, Climate and Energy Director at Amazon Watch.

RABOBANK AND UBS STILL LACKING

The other two banks lacking firm commitments, Rabobank and UBS, have since taken steps to address their trade financing of Ecuador oil in conversations with Amazon Watch and Stand.earth. Rabobank has confirmed its decision to exit trade finance of Amazon oil permanently, but will not make a formal public statement.

In January, UBS stated that it “already had declined some crude oil transactions from the region” – though has not yet made “firm commitments” to ceasing such activity entirely. It is now rejecting all transactions related to Ecuadorian crude but has not formulated a public stance on an exclusion, lagging behind the other banks listed in the report that have since committed to stopping trade financing of Ecuador oil.

INDIGENOUS CONCERNS

Last week, hundreds of Indigenous Kichwa people from the Ecuadorian Amazon marched through the city of Coca to mark one year since the country’s largest oil spill in recent history. On April 7, 2020, 672,000 gallons of crude oil and fuel spilled from the country’s two major pipelines, the OCP and SOTE operated by the OCP Consortium and Petroecuador respectively, contaminating the Coca and Napo rivers, and threatening Indigenous peoples' source of water and food. There has not been full remediation nor redress for local communities. 

Another major issue that exposed contradictions and weakness in banks’ existing policies and spurred commitments was oil drilling in Yasuni National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve home to two of the country’s last two Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation. The government recently announced plans to open 72 new wells inside the park, with over 600 new wells planned. 

HISTORY OF BRIBERY

The recent admission by former Gunvor employee Raymond Kohut of his involvement in a scheme to bribe Ecuadorian government officials to win business from state-controlled oil company Petroecuador is the latest development in a long history of bribery and corruption governing the flow of oil from the Amazon. Several banks still fund Gunvor and other traders, so questions remain about how banks can ensure that the billions of dollars lent through revolving credit facilities (RCFs) isn’t being used to support Amazon oil trade, expansion, and corruption.

###

Media contacts: 

In US: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager, media@stand.earth, +1 510 858 9902 (Pacific Time)
In Europe: Dave Walsh, Media Advisor, europe@stand.earth, +34 691 826 764 (Central European Time)

Interviews available in Spanish and English