Canada’s major banks’ support for the fossil sector grew by 70% last year, despite recognizing the need for emissions to fall, according to the flagship report. Alarmingly, tar sands,(Canada’s fastest-growing source of carbon pollution) saw a 51% increase in financing from last year to $23.3 billion CAD, with the biggest jump coming from RBC and TD.

The 13th edition of the Banking on Climate Chaos report shows that RBC, Scotiabank, CIBC, TD, and Bank of Montreal all increased their financing of fossil fuels by a combined USD 54 billion (CA $61 billion with exchange rate shifts) in 2021, a 70% increase over 2020. Between 2016 and 2021, Canadian banks have funneled an alarming CA$ $911 billion into coal, oil, gas, and tar sands. Just last year, all of Canada’s banks vowed to become ‘net-zero’ by 2050 – pledging to reduce financed emissions to zero, including offsetting measures – yet in that very same year they provided $165 billion to fossil fuel clients.

The data shows Canadian banks are responsible for the largest increase in financed emissions globally. The figures were assessed by a consortium of civil society organizations including Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Reclaim Finance, Sierra Club, and urgewald.

RBC remains top of the list as Canada’s worst offender of fossil fuel funding. The bank increased its funding by $23 billion last year, doubling its funding from the year before. This is followed by Scotiabank whose fossil fuel funding increase stands at $16 billion, with CIBC’s at $15 billion. TD and Bank of Montreal boast increases of $4 billion and $3 billion respectively.

“In light of RBC’s increased financing of fossil fuels over the last year, climate commitments without actual follow-through is just more hot air. We are incredibly disappointed that RBC is choosing to light our future on fire instead of being a climate champion,” said Sarah Beuhler, Senior Climate Finance Campaigner.

The report digs into the funding that 60 global banks provide to major fossil fuel companies and projects, which are the leading cause of climate change. Researchers found that fossil fuel financing from these banks has topped $5.998 trillion in the six years since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, with $939.67 billion in 2021 alone.

Canadian banks continue to be over-represented in the dirty dozen top fossil bankers since the Paris Agreement was signed, with RBC, Scotiabank, and TD all in the top twelve and all of the big five banks in the top 20. However, US banks continue to be the single worst grouping of fossil banks, with the top four fossil fuel funders in the world (JPMorgan Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America) all US-headquartered, joined by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in the top 14.

Canadian banks are exposing shareholders and the public to unacceptable risk.” said Adam Scott, Director of Shift Action for Pension Wealth Planet Health, “They are risking the long-term value of their company with their dangerous over-dependence on lending to a fossil fuel industry facing sudden disruption. And they are risking our collective future by actively delaying the transition away from fossil fuels needed to stop the climate crisis. The data shows Canadian banks are responsible for the largest increase in financed emissions globally.”

Meanwhile, Europe is heading in the right direction with banks like La Banque Postale in France publishing a commitment in 2021 to end financing for all companies expanding oil and gas and exit the sector completely by 2030. Banks such as Crédit Agricole and Nordea have made similar commitments on coal.

The Russian-Ukraine war has put a spotlight on the role that fossil fuels play in war. The Kremlin gets 36% of its budget to fund this war from the sale of oil and gas. Recent research revealed over $110 million USD invested by prominent Canadian financial institutions in Russian oil and gas majors Lukoil, Rosneft, and Gazprom. Banks that continue to fund the expansion of the whole sector are complicit in conflict and violence. Canada is no exception, with well-documented aggression against Indigenous resistors of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, principally funded by RBC.

This month, over 65 celebrities, musicians, and actors including Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and Leonardo DiCaprio called on RBC, Canada’s largest bank, to stop financing the pipeline and end fossil fuel finance once and for all.

“It’s incredibly alarming that in 2022 at the height of the climate crisis, RBC is doubling down on fossil fuel finance. I spoke at RBC’s shareholder meeting in 2009 to address water and climate impacts from RBC investments – yet RBC continues to willfully finance destruction, including in my community through the tar sands, the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world,” said Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Senior Director, Indigenous Climate Action. “This report is the latest example of RBC covering up their role in exacerbating the climate crisis, violating Indigenous rights by not upholding free, prior and informed consent as outlined in UNDRIP. In my community, we can’t drink our water because of RBC’s investments. We want to make sure communities elsewhere still can.”

It is only because of financing from banks and other financial institutions that coal, oil, and gas companies can continue to expand and increase their emissions. The goal to reduce emissions’ to safe and liveable levels will be unreachable. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the impact of global warming has intensified and the world is already facing irreversible damages in the ecosystem with both humans and animals struggling to survive. 

“If money talks, then Canada’s big five banks are saying they want the planet to burn, baby, burn,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada. “Their fossil fuel funding is back to pre-pandemic highs, which reveals all their fine words about  climate action as mere sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Today’s report comes ahead of fossil banks’ shareholder meetings, including RBC’s April 7 meeting where communities are gearing up to take action.

Coastal GasLink (CGL) is a dangerous project that blatantly violates Indigenous rights, and puts our climate goals at risk. Our partners Stand recently published a detailed case study on the problems with CGL.

Built by TC Energy, the 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline is intended to carry fracked gas from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, BC, where it will be converted to liquified natural gas (LNG) for export to global markets. Despite unequivocal Wet’suwet’en opposition to the project, the pipeline runs through 22,000 square kilometres of the Nation’s unceded territory. It also crosses more than 206 ecologically sensitive waterways. The pipeline is built to carry 2.1 billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas, with a peak capacity of up to five billion cubic feet per day.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is among five commercial banks (including Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank, CIBC and TD bank) that provided the project with working capital. RBC provided CAD $275 million in project finance – including a co-financed $6.5 billion loan and a $40 million corporate loan, and $200 million in co-financed working capital – while acting as financial advisor for the pipeline.

RBC also holds over 85 million shares in TC Energy, which translates to about 8.6% of the company or more than a $1.03 billion-dollar stake (at $58/share). RBC not only finances TC Energy; it’s deeply invested in the company, and doubly exposed in the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Read the full case study on the Stand website.

Today, over 65 Hollywood celebrities, including Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, and Robert Downey Jr., released a letter to City National Bank’s (CNB) parent company, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), demanding the immediate withdrawal of financial support for Coastal GasLink.

CNB, dubbed the “Bank of the Stars,” is a wholly-owned subsidiary of RBC, the lead financier of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. Since acquiring CNB in 2015, RBC has doubled down on fossil fuel financing, and is the world’s fifth largest fossil bank and Canada’s #1 fossil fuel financier.

The letter signed by actors, artists, athletes and musicians states, “Despite claiming to be a leader in climate conscious banking, since acquiring CNB in 2015, RBC has spent over $160 billion to become one of the world’s largest and most aggressive financiers of tar sands, fossil fuel extraction, and transport.”

Read the full letter and list of signatories here.

“Our sacred headwaters, the Wedzin Kwa river, is the lifeline for our people. By financing Coastal GasLink, CNB’s parent company RBC is putting us profoundly at risk,” said Gidimt’en Checkpoint spokesperson Sleydo’, Molly Wickham. “The gas pipeline violates our hereditary title, and has led to years of RCMP violence and harassment of peaceful Indigenous land defenders, and the forced removal of Wet’suwet’en peoples from our territory. We’ve been crystal clear: RBC must divest from this toxic project, which threatens Wet’suwet’en land, air and water, and steamrolls Indigenous rights.”

With an estimated CAD $6.6 billion price tag, RBC is among top commercial banks providing the CGL project with working capital, including CAD $275 million in project finance, a co-financed $6.5 billion loan, a $40 million corporate loan, and $200 million in co-financed working capital – while acting as financial advisor for the pipeline.

“CNB and RBC have the opportunity to stand on the right side of history, and that starts with immediately divesting from Coastal GasLink,” said actor and activist Mark Ruffalo. “I’m heartened not only by the power of Wet’suwet’en land defenders, but also by my community of artists rising up to demand an end to all fossil fuel finance as we live through this climate catastrophe.”

Today’s letter comes after a February 25 landmark meeting between Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and CNB and RBC executives, where the Chiefs issued formal demands. Days following that meeting, the latest IPCC report painted a devastating picture of climate impacts on Indigenous Peoples and their resilience, and handed a stark warning to investors.

The February 25 meeting ended with the Chiefs showing a heartbreaking video of the years of police violence, arrests, raids, and harassment which continues to this day. The RBC-financed Coastal GasLink pipeline has brought a rise in police violence against Indigenous land and water defenders, with Canadian federal police spending topping $21 million.

A new investigation recently revealed fossil fuel companies, including Coastal GasLink, launched a steady flow of “Indigenous washing” social media ads, with a spike in the targeted ads around the November 2021 federal Canadian police raid.

“We refuse to allow our industry’s bank of choice to associate itself with the abuse of Indigenous Rights or to participate in accelerating the climate crisis,” said Alex Ebert, musician and composer. “Despite public statements, CNB’s parent company RBC is blatantly disregarding Indigenous peoples and our climate. This letter is not the beginning of this decade-long fight, or even close to the end. If CNB’s parent company doesn’t divest from its extreme fossil fuel extraction and transport operations, the ‘bank of the stars‘ will be known as the ‘bank of the tars’.”

In addition to Coastal GasLink, RBC is pouring millions into Russian oil and gas corporations,  including one producing steel for the pipeline. The pipeline has been implicated in recent pushes to divest from Russian assets, as one of the main suppliers of steel to the pipeline is Russian-oligarch controlled Evraz.

“I spoke at RBC’s shareholder meeting in 2009 – RBC is not new to these tactics. They have been willfully financing destruction, including in my community through the tar sands, the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world,” said Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Senior Director, Indigenous Climate Action. “Bankrolling Coastal GasLink is just the latest example of RBC covering up their role in violating Indigenous rights, not upholding free, prior and informed consent as outlined in UNDRIP, and in exacerbating the climate crisis. In my community, we can’t drink our water because of RBC’s investments. We want to make sure Wet’suwet’en communities still can.”

Frontline organizers, celebrities, and communities will host an online press conference on Wednesday, March 16 at 10amPT / 1pmET, and are gearing up to take action in Los Angeles this Friday, March 18, and across North America around RBC’s annual shareholder meeting on April 7, expected to take place both virtually and in-person in Toronto.

To view this full release with all signatories online, visit: 

Today RBC released – to little fanfare, and deservedly so – an update on it’s ESG activities. Included in the update were next steps on its climate plans, as part of their participation in the Task Force on Climate Related Disclosures.

Investors for Paris Compliance, an investor advocacy group tracking climate policies at RBC and others, released this statement:

RBC is falling behind in its efforts by failing to set 2030 targets for carbon-intensive sectors and by omitting the majority of its financed and facilitated emissions, contrary to its Net Zero Banking Alliance commitments and best practices. There is no attempt to address recent controversies regarding RBC’s financing of fossil fuel projects that violate Indigenous rights, nor to end financing of fossil fuel expansion in accordance with the Net Zero scenario of the International Energy Agency.

Said Matt Price, Director of Corporate Engagement with Investors for Paris Compliance (I4PC): “Today RBC failed to change course as Canada’s largest funder of fossil fuels with a go-slow approach in the face of the climate emergency. By not setting 2030 targets and underestimating its financed emissions, the bank is falling behind its competitors, which is disappointing to investors.”

Read the full statement on the Investors for Paris Compliance website.

As world governments and corporations push back against Putin’s aggression by pulling out of Russian business, many financial giants and investors don’t seem to have a problem propping up Putin’s war machine.

As reported in the National Observer, a new report from Stand highlighted holdings in Russian oil, gas, and coal companies by global investors. Canada had many investors on the list, including RBC.

New research from international climate non-profit shows Manulife, RBC, CIBC, BMO and others have collectively financed Russia’s three largest oil and gas companies — Gazprom, Lukoil and Rosneft — with more than US$110 million worth of investments. The data was compiled using financial software called a Bloomberg terminal that tracks investments in real-time.

According to the data, RBC owns $6.3 million in shares of Lukoil and over $31 million worth of bonds from Gazprom. Similarly, BMO owns $4.3 million worth of shares as well as $3.3 million worth of bonds in Gazprom. CIBC holds $7.8 million worth of shares in Lukoil and just over $240,000 worth of shares in Rosneft.

Other financial institutions supporting the Russian oil and gas giants include AGF Management, MD Financial Management, Sun Life Financial, Desjardins Trust, Fidelity Investments Canada, 1832 Asset Management and Power Corp of Canada. climate finance director Richard Brooks told Canada’s National Observer that even if the total figures aren’t enough to fundamentally change the calculus of the invasion of Ukraine, these institutions should divest themselves as part of the Canadian response to Russia, from symbolic actions — like lighting up the CN Tower in Ukraine’s colours to other economic tactics like sanctions.

“The investment isn’t in the billions of dollars, but that doesn’t mean Canadian financial institutions are off the hook in terms of taking responsibility for where their money is being invested and what kind of activities their money is supporting,” he said.

“If Vladimir Putin didn’t have Russian oil and gas revenue, then he wouldn’t have been able to amass the war chest that he has to be able to invade Ukraine,” he added.

Read the full article at the National Observer.