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European banks slammed for financing oil projects in Amazon rainforest

EUROPEAN banks have been accused of hypocrisy on climate change by Ecuadorian indigenous groups after a report exposed their financing of destructive oil projects in the Amazon rainforest.

Stand.earth and Amazon Watch said that ING, Credit Suisse, Natixis, BNP Paribas, UBS and Rabobank were the largest investors in the shipping of Ecuadorian crude worth about $10 billion (£764 million) to US refineries over the last decade.

The banks have all committed to protecting the environment, according to statements on their websites, and most claim to support the Paris Agreement on climate change and the United Nations sustainable development goals.

But Marlon Vargas, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, dismissed the financial institutions’ environmental credentials.

“The banks are engaging in double standards,” he said. “To devastate the Amazon is to devastate life itself.”

The Amazon rainforest spans nine South American countries and regulates the world’s climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, which is one of the main drivers of global warming.

Scientists estimate that between 15 and 17 per cent of the forest has been destroyed since the 1970s and warn that further damage could make the Amazon a major emitter of carbon dioxide.

Indigenous groups in Ecuador say that concessions for oil exports have been granted without their consent.

Last year, a court ruling banned drilling on half a million acres of land belonging to the Waorani tribe.

Those resisting mining or logging projects say they have received death threats, although it is unclear who is behind them.

Most of the banks claim to have stopped financing such projects, with others saying that they would look into the concerns raised in the report.

Amazon Watch spokeswoman Moira Biss said: “Banks have an opportunity now to close loopholes on trade finance and give their words on climate and indigenous rights real meaning.”

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