New Report Highlights the Gendered and Racial Impacts of the Fossil Fuel Industry in North America and Complicit Financial Institutions
New York City, New York— With apocalyptic scenes of increasing fires, floods, and heatwaves proliferating, it is clear that the climate crisis is accelerating. As part of national and global efforts to lower carbon emissions, stop fossil fuel expansion, and halt the worst effects of the crisis, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) has released the third edition of The Gendered and Racial Impacts of the Fossil Fuel Industry in North America and Complicit Financial Institutions in a call for immediate divestment from fossil fuels to protect communities and our global climate.
The third edition spotlights new case studies and data, addressing the disproportionate gender and race-specific health and safety effects as well as Indigenous rights issues of fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure in the United States and selected parts of Canada— interlocking issues that have been sorely neglected in the discourse regarding fossil fuel extraction. The report explicitly exposes the role that financial institutions, including banks, asset managers, and insurance companies, play in preserving and perpetuating negative gender and racial impacts through focusing on 9 regional case studies, from the fracking fields of Kern County in California to the recently approved Willow Project in the Western Arctic.
The report provides ample evidence of the harms women in marginalized communities face, including increased risks of cancers, ovarian diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and mental and emotional distress related to air pollution and water contamination caused by the fossil fuel industry. This report provides scientific evidence highlighting these and many other disproportionate health impacts women experience from fossil fuel pollution including, black carbon, an airborne pollutant released through fracking processes, which has been linked to increased hospitalizations from respiratory and cardiovascular issues and adverse birth outcomes. Health impacts resulting from fossil fuel derived contamination exacerbates women's caretaking roles when sickness and disability amongst children, elders, or other community members occurs, leading mothers to be more exposed to stressors, report greater strain, burden, and distress than their male counterparts.
“Whenever I do my blood work, I get my iron infused in the same place where women get chemotherapy. Every time I'm there, even when I get my iron treatment, I'm always thinking ‘what if the next time I come, I have to get chemotherapy.’ I do live in Cancer Alley, so it’s those things that play on your mind and the reality of it that's really detrimental…We’re also dealing with climate change and being impacted by hurricanes; the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our area alone is massive… it’s a lot of different intersections that come into play. There are ways financial institutions can invest to improve our health and also support our communities instead of contributing to harming them, ” states Jo Banner, Co-founder and Co-director of The Descendants Project, resisting fossil fuel projects in “Cancer Alley”, Louisiana.
This report also acknowledges the crucial role that Indigenous women play as cultural bearers in their communities, while highlighting the imminent threat to cultural lifeways posed by the fossil fuel industry.
Whitney Gravelle (Anishinaabe), President of the Bay Mills Indian Community, resisting the Line 5 pipeline and protecting the Great Lakes states: “When we're getting into these fights over water, and trying to protect water and not having anyone else respect water, it is very frustrating. As an Anishinaabe woman you want to do what you need to do—to know the depth of your teachings and to understand why you need to protect the water…It does have ceremonial impacts not only on myself but on our community. Who would want to go and perform a water ceremony, if the water is surrounded by oil? No one. If that place is destroyed, if the Straits of Mackinac are destroyed, our ceremonies are destroyed, those Waters Spirits are destroyed, those beings, we can no longer communicate with them…and so it becomes a threat to our Indigenous spirituality, our Indigenous lifeway, when we can no longer really be who we are. If the water is destroyed it's also the land—it’s not just nor right.”
The report spotlights Vanguard, BlackRock, Capital Group, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of America, and Liberty Mutual as primary financiers of harmful fossil fuel projects within the regional case studies. All seven of these financial institutions have voiced support of the Paris Agreement and human rights via public statements or by signing various international frameworks, yet, these financial institutions continue to fund companies whose operations are disproportionately harming women and communities of color, while also violating Indigenous rights and furthering the climate crisis.
Patricia Garcia-Nelson, Fossil Fuel Just Transition Advocate with GreenLatinos, resisting fossil fuel expansion in Weld County, Colorado states: “Women are the creators, we give birth to life on this planet and for us women, it's natural to want to protect and to take care. All I can say to the financial institutions making investments in these destructive and extractive industries is that they are investing in the wrong thing.”
The report outlines risks for financial institutions and recommendations for policy changes. Financial institutions are exposed to various risks, including regulatory risks, stranded assets, physical and transition risks of the climate crisis, and reputational risks. The report details a list of 14 recommendations financial institutions need to adopt including robust implementation standards and due diligence on climate and human and Indigenous rights issues. The report also advocates for a just transition to a renewable and regenerative future that uplifts communities most impacted by environmental degradation, pollution, and the climate crisis.
Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN and co-author of the report states, “The fossil fuel industry, and their financiers, are leading us further down the path of irreparable climate disaster, and we need to understand who is being harmed first and worst by their actions. If we want to truly address the climate crisis we must lead with climate justice and that means understanding the gendered and racial impacts of the fossil fuel industry. Women are rising to stand up and end the violence against the earth and women. Through the report we are calling on financial institutions to be leaders in a Just Transition by taking action to halt the financing of fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure, which is causing egregious harms to frontline women and communities. We want no more sacrifice women, no more sacrifice zones, and no more sacrifice zip codes. The fossil fuel era is over and the time is now to transition to renewable, regenerative energy, and a healthy and equitable future for all.”
If you are interested in learning more about the report, speaking with affected frontline women, please contact Katherine Quaid, firstname.lastname@example.org
The report, organized by Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, began with an investigation into fossil fuel extraction, and infrastructure projects across the United States and in a few locations in Canada. Based on the initial collection of research, nine regions with large fossil fuel projects and/or high concentrations of fossil fuel infrastructure were identified. Based on an examination of companies operating in the nine regions, seven financial institutions are identified as prominent financiers, insurers, and investors of these companies. This report is based on the analysis of first-hand women’s accounts, peer-reviewed scientific articles, and other published papers.
The Women's Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International
www.wecaninternational.org - @WECAN_INTL
The Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International is a 501(c)3 and solutions-based organization established to engage women worldwide in policy advocacy, on-the-ground projects, trainings, and movement building for global climate justice.