Written by: Kimberly White

Morgan Stanley will no longer fund oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Morgan Stanley is the fifth largest funder of fossil fuels in the United States. Thirty-five global banks are responsible for $2.7 trillion in fossil fuel financing since the adoption of the Paris Climate Accord. Morgan Stanley has provided $92 billion in funding for fossil fuels since 2016.

The updated environmental policy also prohibits direct financing for new and expanded coal-fired power plants and new thermal coal mines. Additionally, Morgan Stanley has committed to phasing out funding for thermal coal mining companies that “do not have a diversification strategy within a reasonable timeframe.”  

The multinational investment bank is the fifth major U.S. bank to rule out arctic oil financing. Since December 2019, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup have made similar commitments, signaling that the world’s banks are beginning to recognize the need to shift away from fossil fuels and towards sustainable alternatives to ensure their survival. 

“The last five months have seen a genuine step forward from U.S. banks on fossil fuels. The Arctic is now a no-go zone for fossil projects. And this new set of policies will further accelerate coal becoming unbankable,” said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner at Rainforest Action Network.

Bank of America is the only major U.S. bank that has not committed to prohibiting funding for Arctic drilling. 

“Keeping destructive drilling out of the Arctic Refuge is critical to the survival and way of life of my people, and we are thankful that so many major banks are listening to us and taking our human rights seriously,” said Bernadette Demientieff, Gwich’in Steering Committee Executive Director. 

Porcupine Caribou Herd in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit: Danielle Brigida/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

More than 9,000 Gwich’in people make their home along the migratory route of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, a crucial source of subsistence for the Gwich’in. Drilling in the Arctic Refuge threatens the calving grounds of the herd. The Gwich’in Steering Committee has long advocated for the protection of the Arctic Refuge, and their voices are now being recognized by many of the major banks. 

 “If Bank of America refuses to commit not to fund Arctic drilling, they’ll have the Gwich’in Nation and the millions of Americans who stand with us to answer to,” continued Demientieff.