|Barclays says no to Caspian pipeline loan|
Press release from:
Barclays says no to Caspian pipeline loan
Environment groups today welcomed a decision by Barclays not to provide a loan to the controversial Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.  The pipeline has been criticised for causing environmental damage and undermining human rights, as well as destabilising the conflict-prone region.
Barclays declined to give a reason for staying out of the Caspian pipeline, but did say that "All projects in which we participate are considered in accordance with our established risk management policies and procedures including those addressing environmental and social issues, which are in line with the Equator Principles".
Barclays is one of four British banks which earlier this year signed up to the Equator Principles, a set of voluntary environmental and social guidelines on project finance.
The bank's move is set to put its rivals under pressure to follow. HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland (which owns NatWest) and Standard Chartered have also adopted the Principles. Campaigners say the Caspian pipeline breaks the Principles on numerous counts. 
Nick Rau, of Friends of the Earth, commented, "On this project, Barclays seems to have put its money where its mouth is and stayed out. HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Chartered should now follow suit and boycott this project."
The other three banks have refused to say whether they are working on a loan proposal for the pipeline. 
Kerim Yildiz, Director of Kurdish Human Rights Project, added, "This pipeline is set to cause human rights abuses along its whole route. In Turkey, it will be guarded by the Gendarmerie, which has been repeatedly criticised by amongst others the ECHR, the Council of Europe and the US State Department, for its appalling human rights record. If banks provide loans to it, they will be publicly associated with the human rights violations that occur as a result of the pipeline project".
Greg Muttitt, of PLATFORM, commented, "This is a heavily political project, driven - sometimes coercively - by US oil interests. Banks must question whether such an approach gives them a stable investment, or whether public pressure might overcome political might, as it has recently in Georgia".
Barclays has often been criticised for the projects it has financed - most recently the Karahnjukar Dam in Iceland.  Environmentalists are hopeful that the Caspian pipeline decision marks the start of a different approach by the bank.
Nicholas Hildyard, of the Corner House, said, "We are taking Barclays at their word on this. The company's record on engagement with civil society groups has not been good; we hope that this marks the turning over of a new leaf".
For further information please contact:
Greg Muttitt, PLATFORM, 07970 589 611
Notes for editors
1: Barclays Public Issues Manager Claire Wallace wrote to Friends of the Earth on 20th November 2003, stating "I confirm as stated in previous correspondence, that we are not involved in the financing of this project"
2: See press release, 'High street banks slammed for breaking 'Equator Principles' lending rules', 23rd October, at http://www.baku.org.uk/press_releases/banks_under_fire.htm
3: In response to questions about whether it was involved in the pipeline, Royal Bank of Scotland wrote on 14th November that "As a signatory to The Equator Principles we are fully aware of our obligations and if we were to become a funding bank for this important project, would work closely with the International Finance Corporation to ensure that it meets with the social and environmental criteria enshrined in The Equator Principles." It did however leave a door open to itself, by saying "The Royal Bank Group will not participate in the transaction unless it is satisfied that the social and environmental criteria set by the Equator Principles will be met by the BTC."
HSBC and Standard Chartered, on 30th October and 13th November respectively, cited confidentiality as the reason for not commenting on whether they are involved in financing discussions.