February 14, 2024

CPAWS Yukon is deeply disappointed to learn Bank of America has copped-out on its pledge not to fund oil and gas projects in the Arctic, including those which could take place within the sacred calving ground of the Porcupine Caribou Herd in Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge. 

In 2021, Bank of America promised to boycott the funding of certain types of environmentally damaging and carbon-emissions heavy projects, including new or expanded coal mining operations, coal-thermal power plants, and “petroleum exploration or production activities in the Arctic.” In December 2023, however, the company quietly repealed that decision, sneaking the change into its updated Environmental and Social Risk Policy Framework, moving instead to place such investments under “enhanced due diligence.”  The take-back was first reported publicly in the New York Times on February 3, 2024, several months after the changes had been made.

Placing these types of projects under “enhanced due diligence” means Arctic oil and gas and projects would be subject to a high-level of risk assessment and “escalated to the Senior Level” for risk assessment. While CPAWS Yukon understands Bank of America’s decision comes in the wake of increasing pressure from some U.S. politicians attempts to restrict or even criminalize the application of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)—policies which, when applied within financial and business institutions, focus on social and environmental sustainability and responsibility—this change effectively moves potential funding for Arctic oil and gas projects, including those within the Arctic Refuge, from “off the table” to “on the table, under the right circumstances.” CPAWS Yukon finds this wholly unacceptable. 

“The underhanded manner in which Bank of America has reneged on its commitment to boycott the funding of Arctic oil and gas projects casts a poor light on the institution’s willingness to take climate change, the health of the environment, and rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples on both sides of the border seriously. Frankly, Bank of America’s actions are shameful.”

-Laurence Fox, Campaigns Coordinator, CPAWS Yukon

Bank of America is the second largest financial institution in the U.S., with assets totalling US$2.4 trillion. It has been the fourth largest funder of fossil fuel development since the implementation of the 2016  Paris Accord and was the last of the six major U.S. banks to commit to not financing oil and gas projects in the Arctic. The remaining five major institutions all currently have policies committed to not financing drilling in the Arctic. Similarly, thanks to joint pressure from CPAWS, the Vuntut Gwitchin, Gwich’in Tribal Council, and our partners within the international Arctic Defence Campaign, all five of Canada’s major financial institutions have committed to denying funding for oil and gas projects within the Arctic Refuge in order to protect the Sacred Calving Grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the rights of the Gwich’in Nation.  Bank of America’s decision to backpedal on its agreement is not only a broken promise to Arctic Indigenous communities, Americans, and Canadians, but a deviation from the international norms agreed upon by its contemporaries and competitors. 

CPAWS Yukon stands in solidarity with the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Gwich’in Nation, independent Inupiat, Yukoners, Americans, and Canadians who have explicitly and emphatically opposed all oil and gas development within the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. The only acceptable development within the Arctic Refuge is no development, and the retraction of its no-funding policy for Arctic oil and gas projects by Bank of America is both a direct threat to this long-stated, Indigenous-lead position and the Refuge itself. Its decision is, furthermore, in direct contradiction of its own stated understanding within its framework that “the Arctic is a unique region with specific considerations to take into account, including those of marine and wildlife, a fragile ecosystem, and the rights of Indigenous peoples.” CPAWS Yukon cannot see how Bank of America can hold this statement to be true, while simultaneously going back on its promise to ban funding for oil and gas projects in the Arctic. 

CPAWS Yukon urges Bank of America to reconsider its position and sincerely hopes the institution will make good on its previous commitments, now and in the future. 

For more information on CPAWS Yukon and our campaign to protect the Porcupine Caribou and the Arctic Refuge, please visit our website.