The people with money have spoken, and we know money talks. Investors behind more than $2.52 trillion in assets don’t want oil and gas companies wasting any time, energy, or money drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska.
These investors—which include the New York State Common Retirement Fund and many Switzerland-based firms—wrote an open letter Monday in support of protecting the largest wildlife refuge in America.
Why? Plain and simple: Drilling in ANWR is bad business.
“There is no longer any doubt that climate change poses an acute risk not only to our collective way of life but also to investments made in outdated and highly precarious forms of energy,” said Thibaud Clisson at BNP Paribas Asset Management, a signatory, in a press release.
President Donald Trump has been encouraging opening ANWR’s 1.5 million-acre coastal plain up for business, and the GOP finally made it possible in its tax plan overhaul last year. Proponents don’t seem to care that this refuge is incredibly pristine, or that it’s the sacred calving site of the Porcupine caribou herd, which the Gwich’in First Nation relies on for food and their identity. These balled-out investors, on the other hand, do recognize that.
In this letter, they write:
We are gravely concerned about the climate, financial and reputational risks associated with pursuing a speculative fossil fuel source that will likely become uneconomical as the world rapidly shifts towards clean energy sources. Destroying this wilderness area would also have devastating human and ecological impacts.
Basically, the investors are saying this type of drilling doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s time to start thinking of more long-term ways to make money (like, uh, renewables). On top of that, the American public is not down with tearing up ANWR. Investors gotta protect their reps.
Most important of all, however, is the way this drilling sacrifices human rights in the name of profit. The letter acknowledges the Gwich’in’s cultural ties to these lands, and how any drilling that causes the Porcupine caribou herd to suffer would in term harm this indigenous group.
The Gwich’in, for their part, have been actively fighting potential drilling in ANWR since at least the 1980s, when the idea first started gaining steam. They put out their own letter Monday alongside the investors’.
The Bureau of Land Management is taking public comments until June 19 on issues to consider in an oil and gas leasing Environmental Impact Statement. With federal and state support behind drilling in ANWR, who knows if yet another letter will do much. The letter doesn’t threaten to pull any money from the oil and gas industry if investors’ calls are ignored, but we’ve seen divestment take a foothold in the environmental movement.
On the international level, Christiana Figueres, who used to lead the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat and helped write the Paris Climate Accord, told Reuters that all Arctic oil exploration should stop.
Maybe, just maybe, these money-hungry corporations will listen.