* Report names banks backing trade in Amazon oil
* Indigenous communities in Ecuador raise alarm
* Banks have made climate, environmental pledges
* Oil industry plans to expand into U.N.-designated park
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LONDON/QUITO, Aug 12 (Reuters) - European banks committed to
backing action on climate change face allegations of double
standards from indigenous groups in Ecuador after a report named
them as major players in the trade in oil from the Amazon
Stand.earth and Amazon Watch said ING, Credit Suisse,
Natixis, BNP Paribas, UBS and Rabobank were the largest backers
in the shipment of about $10 billion of dollars of Ecuadorian
crude to U.S. refineries over the last decade.
Each of the banks identified, having reviewed the report https://www.stand.earth/publication/Amazon-Banks-report-EN,
referred to environmental commitments they had made, such as to
back the 2015 Paris climate accord, protect forests and support
United Nations sustainable development goals.
But indigenous communities resisting oil industry plans to
push deeper into their territories said any bank backing the
trade from the Amazon was complicit in growing threats to the
world's largest rainforest.
"The banks are engaging in double standards," Marlon Vargas,
president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of
the Ecuadorian Amazon, told Reuters. "To devastate the Amazon is
to devastate life itself."
Spanning nine countries in South America, the Amazon
rainforest faces worsening fires and clearing for agriculture
and mining. About 15-17% of the original forest has been
destroyed, mostly since the 1970s, scientists say.
The rainforest plays a vital role in regulating the Earth's
climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, which is one of the main
greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Scientists warn
further damage could push the Amazon past a tipping point where
it becomes a major emitter of the gas.
Rabobank, of the Netherlands, said in a statement it had
stopped financing Ecuadorian crude cargoes earlier this year,
adding that the concerns raised were "in line with our policy
commitments and part of the due diligence in our trade finance
Both France's Natixis and Dutch bank ING
pledged to look into the concerns raised in the report. Swiss
bank UBS said it already had declined some crude oil
transactions from the region due to concerns about indigenous
Credit Suisse said the issues raised did not
represent any breach of any of its oil and gas lending policies
and it regularly reviewed its policies on environmental and
French bank BNP Paribas said the report's
methodology was "opaque" and questioned how the authors had
arrived at estimates of banks' financial exposures.
The report also said Deutsche Bank had played a
smaller role, including financing a cargo of crude from Ecuador
in April. The bank, which last month said it was tightening its
policies for fossil fuel lending, declined to
As climate change intensifies, European banks have
increasingly restricted backing for some heavily-polluting
projects, such as extracting oil from Canadian tar sands or the
Arctic, and coal-fired power plants.
But providing the specialist financing that enables a global
trade in cargoes of oil, natural gas and coal - known as trade
finance - is coming under greater scrutiny.
"As banks commit to align their financial services to the
Paris goals, this opens up a new frontier of reputational risk,"
said Bruce Duguid, head of stewardship at British asset manager
Federated Hermes, which advises clients with more than $1
trillion in assets.
Much of the trade in Amazon oil passes through banks or
their subsidiaries based in Switzerland, which is a major hub
for the global oil trade, the report said.
In Ecuador, which depends on oil exports pumped mostly by
state-owned Petroamazonas for a third of its public sector
revenues, indigenous groups say that concessions have often been
awarded without their consent.
An Ecuadorian court ruled last year that the Waorani people
had not been properly consulted and banned drilling on half a
million acres of their territory.
Last week, Amnesty International published an appeal for the
protection of women in the Ecuadorian Amazon who say they have
faced death threats for resisting oil extraction, mining and
logging. It is unclear who is behind those threats.
"Banks need to respect indigenous rights, " Tyson Miller,
who heads the forest programme at Stand.earth, said. "They are
violating the spirit of their own environmental policies."
Fears over the impact of oil extraction in the Amazon were
heightened in April when a pipeline ruptured, depriving 27,000
indigenous people of their main water source.
And plans to drill hundreds of additional oil wells in
Ecuador's Yasuni National Park, which sits atop a major
concession, have caused alarm. Home to jaguars, howler monkeys,
pink dolphins, macaws and toucans, the UNESCO World Heritage
Site is one of the most species-rich habitats on the planet.
"May these banks contribute to the conservation and
protection of Mother Earth," Sandra Tukup, of the Amazon's Shuar
The energy ministry and Petroamazonas did not respond to
requests for comment.
"Our priority is to take care of the environment and
maintain a harmonious relationship with the communities in our
operational areas," General Manager Carlos Bermeo wrote in a
Petroamazonas magazine last month.
Natixis said it understood that financing oil exports might
encourage the planned expansion in the Yasuni National Park.
"We are therefore reaching out to related parties ... with
the objective of assessing how best to address such concerns
through trade finance innovation," it said in a statement.
Although ING questioned the calculations of its exposure and
said that two oil traders named in the report were no longer
clients, it also said it was discussing ways to improve its
scrutiny of Amazon-linked transactions.
"We share many concerns outlined in the report and have been
seriously looking into the matter internally," it said.
Nevertheless, the bank said a lack of comparable
certification schemes to those used to verify the origin of many
tropical agricultural products made "traceability" in the oil
and gas trade "challenging."
UBS told Reuters it had declined to back some transactions
when the origin of the oil was "verifiably" in breach of its
standards, including those to protect indigenous land rights and
U.N. heritage sites and was "committed to maintaining the
highest environmental and social standards".
Credit Suisse noted that the report referred to its oil and
gas policy, which restricts financing for projects that could
threaten conservation or indigenous rights, but these policies
did not apply to "trade finance services".
BNP Paribas said Amazon Watch and Stand.earth had not given
it the kind of opportunity to engage during the preparation of
the report that it was used to.
It said the report's methodology was "vague and opaque" and
that this made it "very difficult to comment, even on a general
basis on the alleged support of BNP Paribas to such activities".
BNP Paribas said the report did not list the exact types of
transactions assessed, or give information on the "breakdown of
alleged banks' financial exposures per company and per year".
Moira Birss of Amazon Watch said BNP Paribas was given a
draft of the report more than two weeks ahead of publication and
could have asked for more details.
"Banks have an opportunity now to close loopholes on trade
finance and give their words on climate and indigenous rights
real meaning," she said.
(Additional reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi in ZURICH,
Julia Payne in LONDON and Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing
by Alexander Smith)