As news spread of the latest militarized RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en territory and the arrests of peaceful protesters and even independent media, many partners in the RBC / Canadian fossil banks campaign decided to direct their attention and resources to help with coordination and amplification of efforts led by the land defenders.

For those wanting more background on the stakes of this effort – members of the community standing in the way of a $6.6B pipeline that would support a $40B gas export facility – and the legal rights the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have, check out this excellent article in the National Observer.

Many NGO’s and grassroots groups and individuals have supported three tracks of work.

Digital media support

The Canada banks campaign lent social media channels and advertising funds to support a digital media campaign targeting funders of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline as well as raising awareness of the violence by RCMP among mainstream audiences. They also amplified solidarity actions happening around the world.

Coordination hub

At the time of the crisis, the Canada banks campaign network was meeting twice a month. Network coordinators decided to use this space as a hub for ENGOs and other allies to coordinate their support. Multiple work streams have come out, including support for a convoy, digital, fundraising, and a day of action on the 20th of December.

Grassroots organizing

Banks campaign organizers connected grassroots groups in Montreal and Toronto with land defenders from the Wet’suwet’en and Kanien’kehà:ka nations to absorb the momentum generated by the crisis and direct organized groups to the work of allyship. As of the 8th of December, a network of dozens of new affinity groups across the country has been built, ready to learn more about the issues and take action from the leadership of land defenders.

For more on the funders of the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, including RBC, check out this great resource from Stand.

Below is an action on October 29 as part of 35 actions across Canada and around the world targeting the funders of the climate emergency.

Canadian Mark Carney leads the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). It’s a collection of over 450 financial institutions around the world, working to “accelerate the transition to a net-zero global economy”. Canadian banks were the last to join GFANZ just a few weeks before the UN COP. The fact that Canada’s fossil heavy big banks were even allowed to join tells you most of what you need to know about the bar of ambition set by Carney.

To widespread media coverage, today Carney is announcing that GFANZ now has $130 trillion dollars committed to net zero. But these huge commitments are a mile wide and an inch deep.

Many of the world’s worst fossil fuel financiers are in GFANZ. Some even started investments in new fossil fuel projects the same week they joined it. Organisations like JP Morgan Chase (the biggest fossil fuel funder in the world) and Barclays (the biggest in Europe) get to flaunt their membership of GFANZ, without taking any of the action required to genuinely reduce funding into fossil fuels. That’s because there are no mandatory commitments, or any conditions for being kicked out of GFANZ. Plus, having a 2050 target with no specific conditions means they can just keep kicking the can down the road.

Richard Brooks, climate finance director said:

“This announcement yet again ignores the biggest elephant in the room. There is no mention of the F words at all in this new declaration from the net zero clubs. We cannot keep under 1.5 degrees [warming] if financial institutions don’t stop funding coal, oil and gas companies.”

It gets worse. Many of the organisations joining pushed back against the most powerful plan for cutting emissions because it requires them to stop financing all new oil, gas and coal exploration projects this year.

Here are a few examples of what companies in GFANZ are up to:

BNY Mellon – At the same time as joining GFANZ, they were preparing to finance Adani Group’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, one of the world’s most controversial new fossil fuel projects. A project so climate risky, that it struggled to get insurers to back it.

Barclays – They said last year they would “not provide any financing to clients that generate more than 50 per cent of revenue from thermal coal activities”, including capital markets underwriting. However, 86 per cent of Monongahela Power’s generation fleet is coal-fired. And who underwrote Monongahela Power’s project? Barclays. They acted as a lead underwriter for a $216m bond deal.

HSBC – Five years ago HSBC said it would publish all details of investments in the coal mining sector. Still nothing.

Deutsche Bank – After announcing plans for imposing strict limits for loans to oil and gas companies, they’re scrapping the idea.

Each of these companies is a proud member of GFANZ.

Patrick McCully, senior analyst at Reclaim Finance said:

“The financial sector talks a big game on climate but is failing to address the urgency of the climate crisis COP26 must signal a turning point . . . away from foot-dragging and towards an end to financial support for fossil fuel expansion.”

Mark Carney needs to sharpen up the conditions for joining GFANZ, and strengthen the requirements of members. Right now, it’s a scheme that allows big finance to greenwash their reputations.

Check out Reclaim Finance’s full report here:

Just before the start of the UN climate conference, hundreds of people across Canada showed up to deliver a message to Canada’s biggest fossil fuel funder, RBC: it must divest from fossil fuels and respect Indigenous rights! The actions were part of hundreds held across 35 countries around the world as part of the #DefundClimateChaos day of action.

It was amazing. There were actions across the country and flagship events in Montreal, Gidimt’en Checkpoint, Toronto, and Vancouver. Just see for yourself!

Together, we showed up with climate justice activists, environmental organizations, and Indigenous land defenders to call RBC out for being Canada’s biggest bankroller of fossil fuels—and demand they walk the talk of real climate action.

  • Our allies in Toronto shut down the streets outside of RBC’s corporate HQ and created a giant street mural calling out RBC for funding climate chaos.
  • In Vancouver, partners showed up with a giant inflatable blow-up of RBC President and CEO, Dave McKay— bestowing him with an award for “greatest greenwasher”.
  • In Montréal, partners replaced two advertising billboards on a major highway calling out RBC. And then regrouped in the afternoon for a protest mobilizing two hundred people to RBC’s doorstep.
  • And at local branches, Leadnow volunteers gathered to spread the news about RBC’s climate investments with passers-by and RBC customers—and spoke to RBC branch staff and managers about feeding our concerns up to executive management!
  • In Collingwood, student volunteers used their lunch break to show up at their local RBC to call on the bank to stop funding fossil fuels.
  • In Orangeville, volunteers brought some creative flair to their event—by writing and performing a song about RBC’s dangerous and dirty investments in climate-destroying fossil fuel projects to branch staff.
  • In Chicoutimi, activists used wheatpaste to plaster the windows of their local branch with messages denouncing the bank’s actions.

We didn’t only show up in person, we made sure to apply the heat on social media too: over 500 of us sent tweets to RBC calling for immediate climate action, and together with thousands of others, got #RBCIsKillingMe trending on Twitter!

Our efforts made the news: national and local media outlets across the country covered the event, and shone a spotlight on RBC’s investments in the fossil fuel industry. And RBC has been forced to respond—so we know we were successful in putting them on notice.

We left behind some absolutely killer videos…

Finally, we joined part an international movement! In over 29 countries, activists took to the streets to demand that the financial sector #defundclimatechaos. Our combined actions reached millions of people through traditional and social media, making headline news in the UK.

We did all this thanks to you, and it’s just the beginning. We’ll be back with ever larger numbers and ever growing energy, calling out #RBCisKillingMe and stating the facts: it’s time to #defundclimatechaos.