Big Banks Just Flunked Their Own Test on Climate, Indigenous Rights
By Lindsey Allen
On Oct. 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 U.S.—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 failed to secure the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous communities impacted by Line 3: three Ojibwe tribes in the Minnesota portion of the pipeline's proposed path remain staunchly opposed. There's been a steady and growing drumbeat of Indigenous-led legal and direct action, up to and including peaceful civil disobedience.
Of course, all this comes on the heels of the historic report recently released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that describes food shortages, growing wildfires and massive coral reef destruction by 2040 unless we take immediate action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
We urgently need to stop expanding and start phasing out fossil fuels to have any chance of meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Flying in the face of these facts, the Line 3 pipeline would increase extraction and burning of tar sands, one of the dirtiest forms of oil. Enbridge is a company going in exactly the wrong direction: Last year, it even sold off a huge wind farm to free up capital to build Line 3.
JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Crédit Agricole are the lead banks behind two key Enbridge credit facilities, loans that act like giant credit cards for Enbridge to use as it pleases. They are crucial for Enbridge's ability to build Line 3. When these loans are set to mature, banks have a choice: They can let them expire, or they can renew their support. One of Enbridge's credit facilities was renewed recently, with another scheduled for renewal in December. At the beginning of October, Minnesota-based Native rights group Honor the Earth and a coalition of Indigenous and environmental organizations sent a letter to those three banks laying out the case against Line 3 and calling on them not to renew their support.
Because Enbridge is funding Line 3 from its general corporate coffers, the pipeline illustrates another fundamental shortcoming of the Equator Principles: Since the standards only cover direct finance for projects, Line 3 is outside of their scope, despite the project's clear impacts on Indigenous rights and the climate. This is a litmus test for the current revision of the Equator Principles, which should cover projects like Line 3 if they're going to be worth anything. As a start for companies sponsoring harmful projects, the Equator Principles evaluation should be triggered when these companies are up for credit renewals as well.
But JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Crédit Agricole can't hide behind the revision of the Equator Principles. They should immediately end their support for Line 3 by dropping their financing for Enbridge, so long as the company is pushing forward this destructive project. The December credit renewal will serve as another test. This time they should make sure they pass it.
Lindsey Allen is the executive director of Rainforest Action Network.
A tornado tore through a city north of Birmingham, Alabama, Monday night, killing one person and injuring at least 30.
- Tornadoes and Climate Change: What Does the Science Say ... ›
- Tornadoes Hit Unusually Wide Swaths of U.S., Alarming Climate ... ›
- 23 Dead as Tornado Pummels Lee County, AL in Further Sign ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By David Konisky
On his first day in office President Joe Biden started signing executive orders to reverse Trump administration policies. One sweeping directive calls for stronger action to protect public health and the environment and hold polluters accountable, including those who "disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities."
Michael S. Regan, President Biden's nominee to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, grew up near a coal-burning power plant in North Carolina and has pledged to "enact an environmental justice framework that empowers people in all communities." NCDEQ
- Report Urges Biden to Reverse Trump's Environmental Rollbacks ›
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ›
- Biden's EPA Pick Michael Regan Urged to Address Environmental ... ›
- Biden Faces Pressure to Tackle 'Unfunded' Toxic Waste Sites ... ›
By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.