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Leon Kaye headshot

NGOs Pressure BlackRock, JPMorgan to Stop Funding Oil Exploration in the Amazon

By Leon Kaye

Last November, the NGO Amazon Watch and activist platform CREDO accused several global financial institutions of having strong links to reported human rights violations and environmental degradation in the Amazonian region of Ecuador and Peru.

Last week, the organizations announced they had delivered over 120,000 signatures on petitions that are urging BlackRock, Inc. and JPMorgan Chase to stop the financing of what activists say are destructive oil exploration activities in the Amazon.

Leaders from Amazon Watch and Credo insist that the push to drill for fossil fuels in remote regions of the Amazon comes at a cost to local indigenous populations. Many of these communities, according to several reports, are usually not consulted before such exploration occurs on lands where they have lived for generations.

Both NGOs also complain that the quest to find petroleum in this region also threatens the Amazon rainforest’s rich biodiversity. Furthermore, the authors of the November report assert that the harvesting of such resources would contribute to the world falling in danger of missing future Paris Agreement climate goals by a “long shot.”

And none of this would be happening in the first place, says Amazon Watch, if the likes of BlackRock and JPMorgan did not have a leading role of financing these oil exploration projects in the first place.

Amazon Watch claims that JPMorgan has close to $113 million in debt and equity investments in GeoPark, Frontera Energy and Andes Petroleum, the largest companies with the largest investments in what the NGO calls “the last fossil fuel frontier” in the Western Amazon.

Meanwhile, the group’s researchers concluded that BlackRock has holdings amounting to $557 million in stocks and bonds of these three companies. And the vast majority of that sum, $553 million, is invested in Andes Petroleum’s parent company, Sinopec. Based in China, Sinopec has been under investigation by the U.S. and other countries over an alleged bribery scandal that has unfolded over the past year in Nigeria.

“The investments highlight the gap between how many major corporations ― including most big banks and financial firms ― spend their money and the public positions they take on climate change,” wrote Alexander C. Kaufman for HuffPost last fall.

JPMorgan, for example, has described its climate action agenda as a plan “to source renewable power for 100 percent of our global energy needs by 2020 and facilitate $200 billion in clean financing by 2025.”

And last summer, a BlackRock managing partner generated headlines when he succinctly declared that “coal is dead.” The company told clients “investors can no longer ignore climate change,” and also offers a roadmap that it says can help clients to navigate through climate change risks.

From Amazon Watch’s point of view, these financial institutions’ public expressions of supporting climate change efforts is mere window dressing when juxtaposed with the actions of the companies in which they are investing. The NGO is urging investors and customers to pressure the banks to divest from these projects; and if JPMorgan and BlackRock do not reverse their lending practices, then citizens should stop conducting business with these financial giants.

“Failing to recognize and act on these risks means that these financial institutions — and ultimately their investors, customers, and owners — stand to lose real cash from climate change and their consciences from knowledge of rights violations being committed,” concluded the authors of the Amazon Watch report.

Image credit: Rainforest Action Network/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye