On the same day as the latest sobering report from the IPCC made headlines around the world – with clear directives on the need to cut emissions dramatically this decade – Stand.earth released new data showing that RBC’s financing of fossil fuel expansion projects increased by alomst half last year.

RBC seeks to project an image as a positive actor on climate, but its funding practices continue to show the opposite is true. Nearly every report on climate from the IEA to the UN identifies the fact that any further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure is incompatible with a safe, habitable climate.

The report was covered by the Financial Post:

Stand.earth says the bank’s US$10.8 billion in funding last year to expansion projects and companies working to increase oil and gas production represents a 45 per cent rise from 2021, and that it goes against both the conclusions of the latest UN climate report and RBC’s own climate commitments.

RBC has committed to reaching net zero financed emissions by 2050, and has set interim targets for 2030, but Richard Brooks at Stand.earth says the bank’s funding actions run counter to those commitments.

“It should be a trend downward, but we’re seeing the opposite happening,” said Brooks, climate finance director at the group.

The latest UN report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also urged increased funding to climate solutions, which he said RBC is also falling short on.

The bank has committed to providing $500 billion in sustainable finance by 2025, with about $85 billion issued last year, but Brooks said the bank is still putting about $99 towards fossil fuels for every $1 they put into renewables.

Read the full story at the Financial Post.

Powerful companies like RBC are held accountable to their shareholders once a year at a legally required Annual General Meeting (AGM). At these meetings, the CEO and other senior executives field questions from shareholders, and often have to respond to resolutions filed attempting to shift the company’s policy on various issues.

At last year’s AGM in Toronto, RBC executives were met with a powerful wave of resistance – so much so that they cancelled the in-person meeting the night before! This didn’t stop the Indigenous leaders and others who had travelled there to demand RBC and all Canadian banks respect Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), stop financing the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, and phase out the financing of fossil fuel projects.

This year RBC decided to run to Saskatoon instead, perhaps thinking there would be a more oil-friendly local crowd. But climate justice matters to many people in the Prairies, and RBC can’t hide from accountability for the damage it is causing communities everywhere.

Here are some important upcoming events to help you get involved in pressuring RBC this spring

March 29 (and ongoing): RBC phone jam

April 3: 7pm EST RBC Burn Book Party: virtual call to action, leave bad google reviews for RBC and join in a phone zap to jam up RBC’s press lines in advance of the AGM.

April 4: 6:30 CT Public panel open to all – Who is financing the destruction of our land?
Wonderhub Performance Hall (950 Spadina Crescent E, Saskatoon)

Featuring:

  • Hereditary Chief Na’Moks Na’Moks is a Hereditary Chief of We’tsuwet’en. RBC is a financier of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline crossing We’tsuwet’en land.
  • Grand Chief Stewart Phillip Chief Phillip represents the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) who has filed a resolution calling on RBC to implement Free Prior Informed Consent in their financing decisions.
  • Tara Houska Tara is a tribal attorney, land defender, environmental and Indigenous rights advocate, and founder of the Giniw Collective, an Indigenous women, two-spirit-led frontline resistance to defend the sacred and live in balance
  • Roishetta Ozane, the Executive Director of The Vessel Project and The Gulf Fossil Finance Coordinator for Texas Campaign for The Environment who will speak to RBC’s financing of LNG in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Jesse Cardinal, the Executive Director of Keepers of the Water, a group of First Nations, Métis, Inuit, environmental groups, concerned citizens, and communities working together for the protection of water, air, land, and all living things within the Arctic Ocean Drainage Basin. She is from the Kikino Métis Settlement, where she grew up.
  • Moderated by Erica Violet Lee Erica is a poet and Native political theorist, born and raised in Saskatoon’s inner city.

April 5 – RBC AGM in Saskatoon
11 AM CET

Calling all hand drummers, dancers, & allies! You’re invited to a rally and round dance for climate justice and Indigenous sovereignty at 11 am (CST). Meet us at the Vimy Memorial Bandstand (https://goo.gl/maps/DhMrrVN5ZwJ9YgSj6). Indigenous Land & Water Protectors, including Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, are coming to Saskatoon to attend RBC’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the same time as the rally. Haudenosaunee, Mi’kma’ki, Northern Alberta Nehiyaw, and Denesuline delegates will be there as well. Let’s welcome and support these visitors to treaty six, the traditional territory of the Nehiyawak, Assinaboine, Stoney, Saulteau, and Dakota, and the homeland of the Metis!

 

Past Events:

March 9:
Webinar: Canada’s big five banks are funding climate chaos and violations of Indigenous rights. Join this webinar and info-session to move your money for climate justice! Register here.

March 19:
Webinar: Join Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders to learn directly from them about their home and culture, and what we’re all fighting to defend. Register here.

April 1: #FossilFoolsDay – day of action across the country.

The RBC AGM will feature shareholder resolutions from allies in the movement, including:

  • Resolution calling on RBC to adopt science-based, absolute climate targets from the New York City pension
  • Resolution calling for an end to the financing of fossil fuel expansion by Stand
  • Resolution calling for RBC to revise its Human Rights Position Statement to reflect that in taking action to mitigate adverse human rights impacts directly linked to its business relationships with clients (as outlined in the UNGPs), RBC will inform itself as to whether and how clients have operationalized FPIC of Indigenous peoples affected by such business relationships, by the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and BCGEU

 

Last week, 11 campuses across Canada held actions at RBC on-campus branches, demanding they stop destroying our climate and violating Indigenous rights.

The actions were covered widely in over 30 media stories, including CP24, Global News Toronto, CBC Calgary and Thunder Bay, and CTV News Toronto and Windsor.

Check out some of the action as it unfolded on twitter and instagram.

 

Yesterday, Barclays, Europe’s largest financier of tar sands companies, announced its commitment to end financing of tar sands producers, as well as ban further financing of new oil sands pipelines. This particularly impacts Canadian companies like Canadian Natural Resources, Cenovus, MEG Energy, TC Energy amongst others. Barclays pumped more than $4.3 billion into tar sands companies since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2016, making it the seventh largest financier of the sector.

The announcement was part of an update of fossil finance policies by Barclays in the UK. While the overall policy was disappointing to European climate activists, the oil sands exclusion stood out. The phase out was covered in Reuters, in multiple sustainable business and ESG publications. It was also widely reported in oil industry publications, and in Alberta including CBC Calgary TV.

On this latest announcement, Stand.earth leaders, working to transition Canada’s economy off fossil fuels to a climate-safe economy, issued the following statements:

Richard Brooks, Climate Finance Director with Stand.earth said:

“Another day, another international bank ditching the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, walking away from Canadian companies refusing to transition to a clean energy future. This time, the world’s largest funder of tar sands. Yet Canadian banks, led by the Royal Bank of Canada, refuse to act on the writing on the wall and are doubling down on financing tar sands. Concerned investors should take note in the lead up to the bank’s annual shareholder meeting April 5th and vote for our climate.”

Sven Biggs, Canadian Oil and Gas Director commented:

“Oil and gas extraction is Canada’s largest and fastest growing source of climate pollution. Today’s announcement from Barclays is a clear signal that the global financial sector is not going to stand by and allow companies like Canadian Natural Resources to continue to threaten our climate.”

In contrast to Barclays, the Royal Bank of Canada, the fifth largest financier of fossil fuels globally, increased financing of tar sands companies in 2022, affirming that Canadian banks are becoming the sector’s banks of last resort. RBC is facing numerous climate-related resolutions filed for voting at its annual shareholder meeting on April 5, which was moved to Saskatoon this year. This includes a resolution filed by the New York City Comptroller on behalf of its $242 billion pension funds, calling on the bank to set absolute emission reduction targets.

RBC is currently under investigation by the Competition Bureau of Canada for allegedly misleading consumers with its climate related advertising while continuing to finance coal, oil and gas so heavily.

More information on the Barclays announcement, including commentary by Shareaction that lead engagement with Barclays on its new climate policy, can be found here.

One of the biggest business stories of 2023 has been the collapse in value of India’s Adani Group, and the wealth of its CEO Guatam Adani, after accusations of fraud.

The Adani Group has been accused of pulling “the largest con in corporate history” in short seller Hindenburg’s new report. Pension funds, asset owners, insurers and banks that have long been funding Adani’s coal expansion are losing trust and starting to drop the risky group.

Why can’t investors and banks spot the risks at Adani?

Adani’s coal expansion is being increasingly funded by global bond investors, with Adani now the largest Indian issuer of foreign denominated bonds with more than $8bn USD bonds presently outstanding. The Adani Group aims to raise an additional $10bn of debt this year, primarily via bonds. It’s inconceivable that major Adani bondholders and underwriters would touch this debt.

The #StopAdani movement, frontline Indigenous communities, and environmental and human rights advocates have been warning about Adani’s dodgy corporate behaviour for years, and have been calling on financial institutions to steer clear of Adani due to their coal expansion, climate change escalation and violation of human rights.

RBC Bank is the 12th biggest global bondholder of Adani. Learn more at ToxicAdaniBonds.com.

 

One of the world’s biggest investors is tired of RBC’s greenwash on climate, and has filed shareholder resolutions at RBC and other US Wall Street firms demanding they set stricter emissions reduction targets.

From Reuters:

New York City’s comptroller and three NYC pension plans are calling on Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to spell out absolute greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2030.

In a statement on Tuesday, Canada’s largest commercial bank was cited with Wall Street peers Bank of America, Goldman Sachs Group, and JPMorgan Chase for “not taking a basic step of setting interim reduction targets that account for total portfolio emissions.”

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, and Board of Education Retirement System say they have filed shareholder proposals recommending “an absolute reduction target aligned with a science-based net zero emissions pathway” for each lender.

“Shareholders applauded these banks when they set net-zero goals – but it can’t be all talk. We expect them to take the steps needed now to reduce emissions on the timeline to which they have committed,” Lander stated on Tuesday. “Absent a concrete plan to reduce absolute emissions in the real world in the near term, any net-zero plan rings hollow.”

The filing was covered extensively in Canadian and global financial media including:

A new report released today shows how shockingly low major banks’ funding of the green energy transition really is. And not surprisingly, RBC is one of the worst performers globally, despite their rhetoric about spending hundreds of millions on green or “transition finance”, RBC’s total spending on renewables is 1%.

You read that right, 1%.

From Reuters:

The share of bank finance going to renewable energy rather than fossil fuels has little changed in six years, raising questions about how fast lenders are pushing energy clients to become greener, according to research published Tuesday.

Since 2016 renewable energy has taken 7% of a total $2.5 trillion in bank loans and bond underwriting for energy activities, according to a report commissioned by environmental groups including Sierra Club and Fair Finance International.

JPMorgan, Citi and Barclays’ renewable energy share was 2% between 2016 and 2022 and The Royal Bank of Canada’s 1%, the report said.

How low can you go?

Let’s start with what we already know. Banks like Citi, RBC and Barclays are pumping billions of dollars into fossil fuel companies, helping to accelerate the climate crisis. But what about funding for renewables?

Stunningly, of all the money banks lend to energy companies, only 7% (on average) is green. And the averages hide the worst of it. US mega bank Citi pumped $181 billion into energy companies between 2016-2022. And only 2% went to renewables. Same for Barclays, Europe’s biggest fossil fuel funder. Canadian bank RBC have a dismal 1%!

Remember, these are the same banks constantly telling you how green they are. And when we’re not looking, they’re ploughing cash into fossil fuels.

 

See the full data briefing HERE

Broken promises

Things are also shockingly disappointing for banks which are members of GFANZ – a bunch of financial institutions that pledged to do their bit to tackle climate change. The data shows these banks actually provide less financing for renewable energy, on average, than the banks that are not in GFANZ. It’s a double own goal for GFANZ because their own data says that in order to reach a safe, low carbon world, green energy investments need to account for at least 80% of energy investments compared to fossil fuels by 2030.

Just to reiterate: they need to be at 80%, and they’re currently at 7%. More than 10 times higher!

 

Why banks, why?

Interestingly, Profundo which compiled the data (for Sierra Club, Fair Finance International, BankTrack and Rainforest Action Network) contacted all the banks, and didn’t get much of a response.

But the Citi CEO Jane Fraser happened to be in Davos for the World Economic Forum this week and when asked whether Citi had ever refused to fund new fossil fuel projects, she responded: “We need to have energy security and we need to be operating on cleaner technologies and the two, as we are seeing right now, cannot be mutually exclusive.”

In other words, no.

This proves that Citi and other banks are prioritising fossil fuels over clean energy. Despite pretending to help us transition off fossil fuels.

So what are banks waiting for? And how much more damaged will our earth have to become for them to properly back renewables and end links to the dying fossil fuels industry?

Read the full article here: https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/bank-funding-renewables-stagnates-vs-oil-gas-report-2023-01-24/

Thanks to pressure from thousands of people, UK banking giant HSBC is going to stop lending money to new fossil fuel fields, anywhere in the world. That means that any fossil fuel company that wants to drill for new oil, or dig for new gas, will not get a loan for it from HSBC. HSBC is the biggest bank so far to create a climate policy that restricts oil and gas funding.

Why does this matter?

This is a really big deal for a few reasons:

  • HSBC lends billions of dollars to the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies. This new announcement won’t stop all of that money, but it’s the first huge step in getting HSBC to wind down the cash they’re dishing out to fossil fuel companies.
  • HSBC is the first in the pack of major global banks to take this step. That means all the other major banks can see that it’s possible to stop funding new fossil fuel fields if they decide to. Now that HSBC is doing it, there’s no excuse for the likes of Barclays, Citi and RBC.
  • Fossil fuel execs will be quaking in their weird crocodile-skin boots. Because once one bank starts taking away the pocket money they need to dig for new fossil fuels, other banks might just follow. And that would put them in a real pickle.
  • And most importantly, it shows that we’re winning. It shows that pressure is working. It shows that together we can drag the world’s biggest businesses, kicking and screaming, to do the right thing. The job isn’t done. But now we know we have the tools to do it.

How did this happen?

How long have you got? Put simply, too many of us told HSBC that they can’t continue funding fossil fuels, and this announcement is a major sign that it’s working. Thousands of us on the outside (think activists, journalists, ordinary people) and inside (think staff & shareholders) made sure we were around every corner HSBC tried to walk down.

For example, *takes big breath*, the movement got HSBC found guilty of greenwashing by the UK ads regulator for misleadingly green adverts. Exposed them in the press for sending “sustainable” money to oil and gas. Pressured them to stop funding Putin’s fossil fuels in Russia when the war started. Set up a meeting for HSBC to meet the land defenders fighting against fracking projects funded by HSBC. Secretly surveyed tonnes of HSBC staff on HSBC’s fossil fuel funding, then released the anonymous results. Disrupted their AGM with non-stop singing. Got their shareholders to demand (and win!) climate action from HSBC. Hung out outside HSBC HQ to let staff know about HSBC’s fossil fuel funding.

Oh, and got their Head of Responsible Investment fired for saying “Who cares if Miami is 6ft underwater”.

Phew.

 

Plenty of room for improvement on oil and gas

This HSBC’s announcement is just the start. It’s not perfect by any means. The policy rules out funding for new oil and gas fields. It doesn’t rule out money for oil and gas companies. So if Saudi Aramco (the world’s worst fossil fuel company and HSBC’s BFF) wanted to spend $10 billion exploring for new oil, they now shouldn’t be able to get the money from HSBC. However if Saudi Aramco asked for $10 billion to help them grow their business, HSBC can loan it to them.

Essentially, HSBC is failing to rule out loans to oil and gas companies, at a corporate level, that are still exploring and extracting new oil and gas. This goes completely against the science. The IEA (a group of very qualified energy nerds) said last year that there can be no new oil and gas extracted if we want to keep to a safe world.

There’s also other banks. No other major global bank has made a commitment like this. And they should be struggling to catch up. We’re now pressuring the likes of Barclays, RBC and Citi to pull their socks up and end funding for fossil fuels.

HSBC wouldn’t be ending funding for new oil and gas without thousands of us pushing them to do it. And now, together, we’re making sure all fossil fuel banks do the same.

RBC recently announced they intend to acquire the Canadian banking arm of HSBC Bank for $13B.

There was immediately push back from many corners of society, including numerous skeptical articles in the Globe and Mail about how this will limit competition and hurt consumers. The proposed deal still requires the approval of Canada’s banking regulator OSFI, the Competition Bureau (who are currently investigating RBC for greenwashing), and the Minister of Finance.

This is really bad news for the climate, because RBC is Canada’s #1 fossil bank, and HSBC is Europe’s. “A match made in greenwashing heaven” as one of our partners put it.

The National Observer reported:

A new front in the fight against climate change is emerging as Canada’s largest bank and top fossil fuel financier, RBC, plans to buy the Canadian arm of one of Europe’s top fossil fuel-financing banks, HSBC.

The planned acquisition would see two banks — both of which have faced serious accusations of greenwashing — combined. In October, Competition Bureau Canada opened an investigation into RBC for allegedly misleading Canadians about its climate performance. That same month, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority found HSBC had misled consumers about how green it was in advertisements it put up a year ago.

Our partner Stand, working with environmental law firm Ecojustice, sent a letter opposing the merger to the Canadian regulators and politicians, urging them to reject this deal on competition and climate risk.

“Unfortunately, neither RBC nor HSBC has a credible plan for addressing climate change (a major systemic financial risk) and the misleading nature of their public climate commitments contrasted with their fossil fuel financing brings the integrity of their operations into question. Misleading consumers and making false climate promises while financing the primary driver of climate change is not in the best interests of Canadians or the financial system.

“Canada needs all economic actors to align with the goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C to reduce climate risks to the financial system and meet Canada’s domestic and international climate commitments. Greenwashing undermines the actions of institutions who are legitimately committed to and aligned with achieving net zero.”

Read the full letter on the Ecojustice website, and stay tuned for more as this story unfolds.

There has been a lot of activism on campuses across Canada this past year, as more and more students and even faculty realize that friendly-sounding RBC is actively investing on a future they don’t want to live in.

Whether it was the recent letter sent by Ivey business school students concerned about RBC CEO Dave McKay receiving an award from the university, seemingly continuous actions against RBC sponsored on campus events, or push-backs from faculty to RBC sponsored scholarships that reek of green- and red-washing.

Last week the student union at the University of Ottawa voted unanimously to cut all ties with RBC.

Then there was this prominent article in the University of Toronto’s student newspaper this week:Supporting RBC on Campus is Supporting the Climate Crisis. An excerpt:

Encouraging students to bank with RBC is encouraging them to support a company that depends on environmental degradation for success. By allowing RBC On Campus to take place at U of T, the university is … letting the actions of the country’s largest financier of fossil fuels be swept under the rug. Fossil fuel funders don’t belong at U of T, and severing partnerships with banks involved in the fossil fuel industry represents dedication both to the climate and to our futures.

Partnering with universities makes RBC seem like a champion of the younger generation. But this is a façade that obscures its true actions — RBC cannot claim to champion youth while simultaneously destroying their future. Fossil fuels are systematically eroding the biosphere’s capacity to support future generations, and to let its financiers onto our campus is to turn a blind eye to the realities of their environmental impact.

Read the full article at the U of T’s The Varsity website.