Johannesburg, South Africa — A group of activists gathered outside Standard Bank to stand in solidarity with impacted communities worldwide who are leading a divestment campaign, Mazaska Talks. Mazaska (Money) Talks is supporting the strengthening of principles that many global banks have committed to, in a campaign coordinated by BankTrack.
BankTrack is running a campaign focused on banks that have signed up to the Equator Principles, a framework for responsible investment decision making by banks. Over 90 global financial institutions have signed up to the Equator Principles, but are still financing destructive projects. These banks are currently meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil as the Equator Principles Association. In conjunction with BankTrack’s campaign, the protests draw attention to the failure of the Equator Principles to align with the Paris Agreement and uphold internationally-recognized indigenous rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) in the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Line 3, Keystone XL, Trans Mountain, and other fossil fuel projects around the world.
“Standard Bank, as chair and signatory of the Equator Principles, should step into their leadership role and ensure that banks are not financing climate disaster and are respecting vulnerable peoples’ rights and territories. We have already seen them show this leadership with their decision not to fund the Lamu coal-fired power plant in Kenya, the Equator Principles meeting is an opportunity to commit to this course of action and influence other banks, ” added Ahmed Mokgopo, a campaigner with 350Africa.
Globally, impacted communities are demanding that banks protect our climate. “Big oil, multinational corporations and their financial backers are not persuaded by moral and environmental arguments. Nor do they even care for following the rule of law, as we have witnessed violation after violation of Tribal Nations’ treaty rights. They’re capitalist and they are persuaded by one thing, money. So Indigenous Nations and their allies are rising up to create a future with clean water and respect for human rights,” Matt Remle, co-Founder of Mazaska Talks
During the global 3-day protest known as #DivestTheGlobe which is organised by Mazaska Talks, there were actions in at least 44 cities in the United States and Canada on Monday. Yesterday and today, there have been actions in Africa, Europe and Asia.
Many of the world’s largest environmental organizations have also lined up in support of the days of action, with environmental leaders adding their voices to a letter that threatens the banks with the pressure of a boycott until they cease funding tar sands projects. Something which Europe’s second-largest bank promised to do last week.
“Until these banks start investing in the future of Mother Earth, we will bring attention to the injustice they contribute to and we will continue to use divestment as a tool to help end these atrocities,” Rachel Heaton, co-Founder of Mazaska Talks
“Making the transition from fossil fuels to green power is no longer a matter of financial capital, but of political will. These banks have learned nothing from Standing Rock or the Great Recession, so it’s up to us to make our own public banks and finance our own communities,” Jackie Fielder, Organizer with Mazaska Talks
“Anyone with a brain, not to mention a conscience, should put their money in a bank that actually thinks the planet has a future, instead of one that scrambles for the shortest of short term gains at any cost,” Bill McKibben, Co-Founder of 350.org
“Wells Fargo and other big banks that finance dirty fossil fuel projects should take notice: this movement isn’t going anywhere,” said Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director Kelly Martin. “Communities across the country are calling on their local governments and institutions to divest from banks that support fossil fuels, and thousands of people have already committed to moving their own money out of these banks. We will not back down until banks commit to investing in a future that benefits our communities, our economies, and our health.”
“Responsible banks don’t put their money into projects that bulldoze Indigenous rights, jeopardize clean water, threaten wildlife and destabilize our climate. As the world’s biggest banks meet to discuss Indigenous rights in Brazil, we’re standing with Mazaska Talks and Indigenous leaders everywhere who are resisting destructive fossil fuel projects. Contested oil pipelines pose too many risks and face too many hurdles to succeed long-term. Already, some of the world’s biggest banks such as BNP Paribas, ING, and US Bank are stepping away from these projects. It’s time for the rest of the financial sector to follow suit,” Alex Speers-Roesch, Finance campaigner, Greenpeace Canada
“Major fossil fuel infrastructure projects like the Teck Resources Frontier Mine, KXL, Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines require outside funding to be completed, giving banks an outsized role in shaping our collective climate future,” said Ruth Breech with Rainforest Action Network. “For too long financial institutions have escaped accountability for the real world consequences of their investments, the time for that impunity has come to an end.”
“Ever since the City of Seattle broke ties with Wells Fargo, it’s been crystal clear that the banks stand to lose billions of dollars because of their funding of projects that both abuse the rights of Indigenous communities and are a disaster for our climate,” said 350 Seattle organizer Alec Connon
“Holding big banks accountable by closing accounts is addressing a root cause of outdated and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure development and egregious human rights violations,” said Vanessa Green, Director of DivestInvest Individual. “People, public institutions and private businesses all moving money means real impact on banks and the broader finance industry, as evidenced by updated or new standards, policies, products and services. As finance industry leaders respond, the laggards are exposed and will be the biggest losers.”