The UU’s bank ABN Amro is complicit in Climate Destruction.

ABN Amro is complicit in climate destruction with their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. “Why does my university accept the investments of this bank, while there is such a clear alternative?”, says Johanna Bozuwa from Fossil Free UU.

“Put your money where your mouth is”, was the opening statement of UU president Marjan Oudeman of the Sustainability Day this past October 11th, when she was describing the UU’s ambitious and necessary goal to be carbon neutral by 2030. However, the university currently uses ABN Amro for all its banking purposes, a bank that heavily invests in the fossil fuel industry.

If the UU really wants to put their money where their mouth is, they need divest from ABN Amro.

Last June, a letter requesting the UU to switch to a sustainable bank was presented to the College van Bestuur, the executive board of the University. It was initiated by Fossil Free Utrecht University, a group on campus that advocates for the UU to cut ties with fossil fuel companies for a just future. The letter was supported by the Uraad and signed by over 600 students, faculty members, and alumni. Signors included Marjan Minnesma, the Executive Director of Urgenda and Alumnae of the Year as well as Herman Wijffels, the previous CEO of Rabobank. Nevertheless, the CvB has not taken any action towards change since that meeting.

Banks can substantially affect the carbon transition with their significant financial investments. As the recent Rainforest Action Network “Shorting the Climate” report shows, financing business-as-usual will lead to carbon spin out and the destruction of many vulnerable communities. Fossil fuel investments are also high-risk, as policymakers are now working to implement the Paris Accord and limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Yet the financial sector continues to finance risky and harmful fossil fuel projects, ABN included.

The most recent example of ABN's destructive investing practices is their investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline. A recent study released by Food and Water Watch followed the money and identified the banks with major investments in the pipeline. ABN Amro financed 45 million dollars of the project.

This pipeline has plans to pump half a million barrels of oil every day across four states. Not only does this pipeline put our climate at risk, it also flows directly underneath the Missouri River— threatening the water source of many  Americans. The pipeline crosses both Lakota Treaty Territory and Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, among other indigenous nations, and infringes on their rights as a native people. ABN is complicit in climate destruction with this investment.

In August, before the first court ruling I was in Washington DC at a protest outside the federal courthouse. Hundreds came to show their support for the direct actions happening in North Dakota and bring their experiences to the capital. Standing Rock youth ran 2,000 miles to bring their message: no Dakota Access Pipeline. It was a beautiful display of solidarity, while also heartbreaking to hear the stories from the front lines where water is being contaminated by fracking and protesters are having dogs unleashed upon them. Since the summer, protests have continued and support has grown around the world for those at the front lines.

How can ABN Amro continue to fund projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline when there are so many positive ways to invest in our future? And why does my university accept the investments of this bank, while there is such a clear alternative? Triodos and ASN banks are examples of the power of positive banking practices in comparison to the risky financial investments of ABN Amro.

In sum, I was happy to hear about the new solar panels, the waste reduction, and more defined recycling initiatives on campus. These are important steps to carbon neutrality. But we need to think systemically about our effect on the climate. The university must not stand by passively and say “not my fault” when it has the power to create change.

We have asked for a response from the CvB on our letter and we hope that the university will take the climate conscious decision to divest from ABN Amro.

So, UU, time to put your money where your mouth is?