On Tuesday, March 31, TC Energy (formerly Trans Canada) announced its decision to move forward with the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This move comes after a decade of protests in North America, a series of legal battles challenging the construction of the controversial pipeline, and political reversals in the US.
More importantly, the decision was made in spite of the lack of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the Indigenous communities living along the proposed route, like the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, and other Indigenous nations both directly and indirectly impacted by the pipeline. When members of Native communities along the pipeline route heard that TC Energy was going to bring in outside workers to build Keystone XL during this time, they compared it to bringing “smallpox blankets” to the reservation because of the risk of those workers spreading COVID-19. But TC Energy continues to plow ahead anyway.
This decision to move forward is made possible by financial institutions willing to pour money into the pipeline project. One of the financial institutions is none other than BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. According to Bloomberg data accessed on April 8th, BlackRock is one of the bondholders in both the US and Canadian market for TC Energy.
Backed by financiers like BlackRock, Big Oil is pushing for its own agenda at a time where the entire globe is mobilizing to stop the spread of Covid-19, revealing how far the industry is willing to go to prioritize profit over people.
In January 2020, after more than a year of increasing pressure from climate activists, investors, and other influential leaders, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink announced a new set of policies which aim to put climate change and sustainability at the center of BlackRock’s business model. They included the introduction of a coal exclusion policy and a commitment to greater engagement with polluting companies. But the coal policy he introduced only applies to BlackRock’s active investments and… coal. He did next to nothing to address other fossil fuels or the asset manager’s passive investments which make up the majority of its business..
The fact that BlackRock is among the bondholders of TC Energy is the symptom of a larger problem within the asset management industry: it is not enough for financial institutions to make bold statements and introduce policies that only apply to one type of fossil fuel or just to active screenings. There must be an overhaul of the entire asset management industry. If BlackRock is serious about implementing “a fundamental reshaping of finance” and putting climate at its center, then it must introduce policies that exclude all fossil fuels from its entire portfolio, including passive investments.
Activists are watching BlackRock closely and are ramping up the pressure to ensure that Larry Fink walks his talk. With shareholder season starting next month, activists are not letting Covid-19 deter their efforts to fight for climate justice, so they will be gathering online en masse on April 23 to make thousands of calls and send countless emails to BlackRock to make sure Fink’s promises will not remain empty words, and to remind him that he has to do better.
On April 15th, a federal judge ruled that the US Army Corps of Engineers violated the law when it approved Nationwide Permit 12, a key water crossing permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL. The ruling could block construction through hundreds of water crossings along the Keystone XL pipeline route. The court will conduct a hearing today on whether to block construction that began last week. This is great news in the critical fight against this pipeline, but it doesn’t absolve BlackRock of it’s continued investment in a company trying to force through a climate destroying project that is vehemently opposed by the Indiginous Peoples in its path.
For more info on how to support indigenous groups fighting Keystone XL, follow Indigenous Environmental Network.