(Very young) oil plantation photo: Angela Sevin
Amid all the news of financial demise, you may have missed two positive bits of news regarding at least two banks greening their activities.
HSBC recently indicated that it would be limiting its involvement with palm oil production (increasingly seen as a threat to the endangered orangutan and as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions) and reviewing its practices of lending to Canadian oil sands developers. Meanwhile, Bank of America as taken a stand against mountaintop removal coal mining (if not coal itself) and will stop financing companies who use this mining method.
Here are the details:Bank of America Supports Coal, Just Not Removing Mountaintops To Get It
After being under pressure by environmental groups for being involved with eight mountaintop coal mining operations in the US, Bank of America shifted its stance on the issue. Here's the official Bank of America policy on coal; and this is the statement the bank released on the matter:
Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.
The move drew praise from Rainforest Action Network, which had been pressuring BofA for over a year to end their support of the mining/mountain destruction technique:
Bank of America's decision is a giant leap forward in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining, which has devastated Appalachian communities and the mountains and streams they depend on. We hope that Citi, JP Morgan Chase and other banks follow Bank of America's lead.
HSBC To Quit Unsustainable Palm Oil
Following criticism for its support of unsustainable forestry and agriculture practices in Indonesia and Malaysia--most recently by the Forest People's Programme , for not disclosing the names of its palm oil clients--HSBC has said that it will cut ties with about a third of its forestry clients:
We're planning to exit 30 percent of client relationships in the forest land and forest products sector in high-risk countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, (because) they don't meet our forestry policy.
At the same time HSBC will also review its lending to Canadian oil sands developers on the grounds that the energy and carbon intensive nature of these projects will make them financially un-viable. HSBC's advisor on the environment, Francis Sullivan said that, "We will continue to review (the policy). A carbon price can radically change the viability of oil sands projects. We look at carbon, water, biodiversity and social aspects."
While its probably too early to say that there's a definite trend towards industry wide greater environmental awareness (at least beyond token publicity statements), both these actions are certainly a step in the right direction.
Greenpeace Activists Detain Palm Oil Tanker: Where Do Readers Stand on Direct Action
Southeast Asia Paying High Environmental Cost for Palm Oil
Tar Sands: The Most Destructive Project on Earth
Tar Sands Investments Could Be Oil Industry's Version of the Sub=Prime Meltdown
Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
An Alternative to Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining in West Virginia
Bush Administration Takes Another Last Minute Poke at the Environment: Approves Easier Coal Mine Waste Dumping in Streams