New York (AFP) - Bank of America said Monday that it would not finance oil and gas drilling projects in the Arctic, the latest large US bank to take the step long sought by environmental advocates.
A Bank of America spokesman confirmed the decision to AFP after it was initially reported by Bloomberg.
Environmental protection organization the Sierra Club welcomed the news.
"Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citi have all announced similar policies this year," the NGO said in a statement.
"Bank of America has faced mounting pressure in recent months from indigenous communities, environmental advocates and shareholders to follow suit."
The decision comes after outgoing US President Donald Trump's administration in mid-November launched the formal process of selling oil drilling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the US state of Alaska.
The refuge is home to a number of protected animal species, including polar bears and caribou.
Sales could in theory occur before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20, though some analysts doubt the process can be concluded by then.
With oil prices low at around $45 per barrel, it is also not clear how much interest the leases will generate, given their location far from major infrastructure and the costs required.
"It has long been clear that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would trample indigenous rights, threaten vulnerable wildlife and worsen the climate crisis," said the Sierra Club's Ben Cushing.
"Now that every major American bank has stated unequivocally that they will not finance this destructive activity, it should be clearer than ever that any oil company considering participating in Trump’s ill-advised lease sale should stay away."