RBS: Making the Climate Weak…

March 21st – 27th 2011 is Climate Week

Communities, organisations and individuals across the UK are being asked to hold events, discussions, workshops and imaginative stunts to showcase Britain’s ambition and confidence to tackle climate change. Climate Week organisers want to “shine a spotlight on the many positive steps already being taken in workplaces and communities across Britain [to] inspire millions more people.”

But it’s not exactly inspiring that one of the main sponsors of Climate Week – the Royal Bank of Scotland – is undermining this kind of positive action by investing billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in climate trashing fossil fuels.

RBS - the Oil Bank of Scotland

Until recently RBS sold itself as the ‘oil and gas bank’.  It is the UK bank that has been most heavily involved in financing the global coal industry and companies mining tar sands in Canada.  Canadian tar sands extraction has been described as the most destructive industrial project on earth, producing carbon emissions three times larger than conventional oil and creating devastating impacts on indigenous communities and the local environment.

Since the 2008 banking bailout, when billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money was used to rescue failing banks, RBS’s dirty investments have effectively been done in our name!

Clearly RBS is hoping to gain some green credentials by sponsoring Climate Week. We don’t want to rain on the Climate Week parade, but we do want to make public the hypocrisy of RBS and put pressure on them to change.

What are we doing about it?

A number of groups including Friends of the Earth Scotland, World Development Movement, People & Planet, Platform and SEAD have been campaigning to get RBS to clean up its act and disinvest in dirty energy, and instead direct funds towards a clean green future.

We’ve been gathering postcards calling on the Chancellor to turn the Oil Bank of Scotland into a Royal Bank of Sustainability.  This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky ask.  As taxpayers’, we own an 83% share in the bank: the Chancellor could (and should) use his powers to force RBS to change its investment criteria and use its financial might to ramp up investments in a low carbon future on our behalf.

RBS keenly promotes its ranking in the Carbon Disclosure Project, but this only relates to carbon emissions from computer screens and light bulbs in its branches and offices, ignoring the vast impacts of fossil fuel projects that it finances. We want RBS to publish information relating to the carbon emissions embedded in its investment portfolio.

We have written to Climate Week’s many supporters explaining the contradiction of RBS’s involvement in the initiative, given its investment activities, and encouraging them to write to the Climate Week organisers about it. We have already had a number of positive responses. 

We are also encouraging activists around the country to creatively engage with Climate Week, by celebrating the many positive steps being taken by individuals and communities, but at the same time, highlighting the irony of RBS’s sponsorship.

What you can do

If your community is engaging with Climate Week, why don’t you join in?  You could organise your own event, along the lines of those suggested on the Climate Week website (www.climateweek.com/run-an-event/event-ideas/) but use it to draw attention to the problems with RBS’s involvement.  You could also write to the organisers of Climate Week expressing your disappointment that RBS is a sponsor. You can email them at enquiries@climateweek.com

Our ‘Clean up RBS’ campaign doesn’t end with Climate Week. We are planning a week of action around the bank’s AGM in April, and we would love for you to take part. Find out what we did at last year’s AGM here.

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