What’s your bank funding?Ethical News News & Features
A WWF poll has found that the UK public disapproves of their bank financing potentially environmentally damaging activities in UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Two-thirds of consumers expect their bank not to lend to companies involved in such projects, with 71% stating that they might even consider switching banks to one that doesn’t fund such activities.
The findings came as Barclays announced its first public policy committing the bank to stop financing projects in World Heritage sites and Ramsar Wetlands.
The move follows WWF’s call for the world’s banks to stop financing damaging activities in World Heritage sites, which are considered to be the planet’s most precious places.
’Protected’ areas at risk
Despite being awarded the highest levels of protection by the United Nations, almost half of all natural and mixed World Heritage sites are threatened by harmful industrial practices such as oil and gas exploration and mining.
One such project that Barclays has been linked to funding is the Canadian Trans Mountain Pipeline, which carries crude and refined oil from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia including through Alberta’s Jasper National Park World Heritage site.
Since 1954 there have been six oil spills from the section of the pipeline that overlap the World Heritage site.
Barclays’ new policy
Barclays’ new policy will cover mining, oil and gas and major infrastructure industries. It states the bank has ‘no appetite’ for financing transactions that support the development or expansion of projects in World Heritage sites, Ramsar Wetlands or their buffer zones unless such development will not ‘adversely affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the site.’
The bank has stated that it will review the policy annually and ‘expect to broaden its scope to include other financial transactions that directly support such projects.’
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‘UK customers are clear they don’t want their banks to fund the destruction of the world’s most incredible places. Barclays’ new policy is a welcome first step that will help cut off the money pipeline for projects that threaten World Heritage sites and one we hope they will continue to build on. We need to see all major banks revising or putting in place strong policies which will protect World Heritage sites and the wildlife and local communities that depend on them.’
Head of Campaigns, WWF-UK
How banks can help
Last year WWF launched a report, How Banks Can Safeguard Our World Heritage, with Lord Adair Turner.
The report outlines what elements strong World Heritage site policies should include. This followed research that found that, at the time, none of the 10 major global banks analysed had fully comprehensive World Heritage policies in place.
Mechtild Rössler, director of the World Heritage Centre, said that the centre ‘welcomes’ Barclays’ statement on World Heritage and Ramsar Wetlands, and that while currently restricted to project finance transactions, the new policy from Barclays is ‘an important step towards ensuring that Barclays capital is not funding activities which could impact World Heritage sites.
‘We appreciate the intention of Barclays to further broaden the scope of the statement beyond project finance in the future and look forward to seeing an even stronger policy in the coming year.
Director of the World Heritage Centre
WWF has said it believes banks ‘are uniquely placed, and have a responsibility, to ultimately support the protection of the environment and those who depend on it’.