Opposition to embattled U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to open up the Alaskan Arctic Refuge to oil and gas exploration continues to mount with the Royal Bank of Canada announcing it will not fund any ventures related to the region.
RBC’s announcement, released on its website on Oct. 2, also notes that any resource or energy development will be screened and be need to be approved by a senior oversight committee. The new policy guidelines also notes the bank will not finance any new coal related ventures unless the applicant can demonstrate a clear plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“We believe these policies are in keeping with our leadership role in environmental and social risk management and are reflective of our commitment to a balanced, responsible approach to business,” reads the policy, which also pledges to not fund any projects that would require resource exploration at United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage sites.
The announcement comes one day after the Canadian federal government re-affirmed its opposition to drilling in the refuge, known to the Gwich’in as Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit — or the Sacred Place Where Life Begins, after Northwest Territories MP Michael McLeod asked Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson what the federal government was doing to protect the Porcupine Caribou that calve in the refuge.
“The porcupine caribou herd is invaluable to the culture and subsistence of the Gwich’in and Inuvialuit peoples and to biodiversity in this country,” said Wilkinson. “We have made strides to protect this herd through the establishment of important habitat areas, including two national parks, Ivvavik and Vuntut.”
Wilkinson added the federal government was a strong advocate for permanent protection of the herd in both Canada and the United States.
In a statement, Gwich’in Tribal Council Grand Chief Ken Smith thanked the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s growing list of allies and urged more Canadian banks to come on board with pro-environmental policies.
“We are pleased to see RBC joining their counterparts in the United States to stand against the violation of Gwich’in rights and the proposed desecration of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska,” he said. “It is promising to see a leading Canadian chartered bank developing environmentally conscious policies and we are hopeful that other Canadian financial institutions will follow their lead.
“We are continuously receiving support from allies, both national and global, to protect these sacred lands for future generations. It is heartening to see so many people and institutions recognizing the importance of protecting this land for our people, the animals, and our world. We urge other Canadian chartered banks to make the moral choice and stand with us and our allies in this fight. The Gwich’in will continue to remain united in the face of any threats to our rights, sustainability and traditions.”
Both announcements come on the heels of the revelation a three-month old, fully peer-reviewed U.S. federal study that found the plan to allow drilling in the refuge would put polar bears at greater risk was behind held up by the U.S. Geological Survey after the Washington Post acquired both the study and internal memos revealing the attempted cover-up.
The study finds that 34 per cent of the dens used by polar bears to give birth lie in the same area the Trump administration is trying to open up for drilling. It also notes shrinking sea ice in the Arctic ocean both threatens the survival of the bears as well as opens up new opportunities for oil and gas development.