Major European Lenders Back Out of Oil Trade in Ecuadorian Amazon

An oil pipeline in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region.

An oil pipeline in the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region. Ivan Castaneira/

Three major European banks — Credit Suisse, ING, and BNP Paribas — have announced they will no longer finance the trade of oil extracted from the Amazon Sacred Headwaters region in Ecuador. The decision is seen as a major victory for environmental and Indigenous rights activists, who campaigned heavily to stop the international financing of fossil fuel development in the region, Reuters reported.

Together, Credit Suisse, ING, and BNP Paribas are responsible for financing the trade of $5.5 billion of Amazon-sourced oil to the United States since 2009.

The policy change is “the first time global commercial banks have adopted policies that exclude finance for extractive activities in the Amazon rainforest,” environmental groups said in a statement.

The decision comes just a few months after a report by the nonprofits and Amazon Watch found that 19 European banks provided $10 billion to finance the trade of 155 million barrels of oil from the Amazon Sacred Headwater region in Ecuador and Peru. That oil largely went to markets in the U.S., with 40 percent to refineries in California. That fuel has produced 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the annual emissions of 17 coal-fired power plants, Al Jazeera reported.

Claire Schiff, a spokesperson for the Paris-based BNP Paribas told Al Jazeera that the decision is part of the company’s effort to continuously improve its “investment activities in sectors that present ESG (environmental, social, and governance) risks.”

The Amazon Sacred Headwaters is considered one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and a critical component of the Amazon’s hydrologic and carbon systems. The region is also home to 500,000 Indigenous people, including several communities that continue to live in isolation. Fossil fuel extraction has contributed significantly to deforestation and environmental degradation in the area, including a number of major oil spills that have contaminated drinking water supplies and ecosystems.