RBC becomes the first Canadian bank to rule out funding for Arctic Refuge drilling

Whitehorse, Yukon – The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) announced today that it will withhold financing for oil and gas extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. RBC is the first Canadian bank to enact a policy on the Arctic Refuge, following the lead of major banks in the United States and overseas. RBC’s commitment comes at an important moment in the decades-long campaign to protect the Arctic Refuge. The banking industry is increasingly distancing itself from drilling in the Arctic Refuge, even as the U.S. Government pushes to hold a lease sale there. Last month Gwich’in and environmental groups filed two lawsuits challenging the U.S. Government’s approval of oil leasing.

In its policy RBC recognizes the “particular ecological and social significance and vulnerability” of the Arctic Refuge, and confirms that the bank “will not provide direct financing for any project or transaction that involves exploration or development in the [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge].”

The move follows meetings last December between Canada’s largest banks and representatives from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Gwich’in Tribal Council and the Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS Yukon). Even though the Arctic Refuge is situated in Alaska, it is critically important to Canada. The Refuge is the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, which in turn sustains Gwich’in communities across northern Yukon, NWT and Alaska. The Gwich’in know the Arctic Refuge as “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.”

“The world is shifting away from fossil fuels, and drilling in the Arctic Refuge would be particularly expensive, so it presents a massive financial risk. It would also be devastating for caribou, the Gwich’in and for the climate.” said Chris Rider, Executive Director of CPAWS Yukon. “Refusing to fund Arctic Refuge drilling is the right ethical choice and a good business decision. The pressure is now on the rest of Canada’s banks to step up, and release their own policies.”

A growing list of banks have already refused to fund drilling in the Arctic Refuge, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo in the United States, and over a dozen banks overseas. “RBC’s decision shows how skeptical the financial world is about drilling in the Arctic Refuge,” said Malkolm Boothroyd, Campaigns Coordinator at CPAWS Yukon. “this is a warning to oil companies that they will struggle to find financing if they choose to pursue drilling in the Arctic Refuge.”

The full policy can be found here: https://www.rbc.com/community-social-impact/environment/RBC-Policy-Guidelines-for-Sensitive-Sectors-and-Activities_EN.pdf



Adil Darvesh, CPAWS Yukon Communications Coordinator
867-393-8080 x9

Elizabeth Stapes, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Caribou Coordinator

Amber Keegan, Gwich’in Tribal Council Policy, Negotiations and Communications Specialist