Where do fossil fuel companies get the money for their climate villainy? What dirty deeds the big banks are up to?

DumpKM Protest against TD Bank and Kinder Morgan Pipeline in Toronto
#DumpKM Protest against TD Bank’s role in organizing the financing of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. The $6.8-billion Trans Mountain project would add 980 kilometres of new pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, British Columbia, opening up a route to the Pacific for Alberta’s tar sands. Environmental groups and Indigenous leaders spoke out against the project and delivered 24,000 signatures from TD customers to the bank’s Annual General Meeting.

Pretty much everyone has a bank. Like supermarkets and clothing stores, they’re a nearly unavoidable part of modern life. They are among the biggest, most powerful, and most profitable corporations in Canada.

It will come as no surprise to you that they have a hand in many of our society’s problems. But aside from charging us high interest on credit cards and monthly fees for not having enough money in our account (?#@*&%!!), what dirty deeds are the big banks up to?

What many may not know is that Canada’s big five banks—TD, RBC, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC—are among the biggest financiers of fossil fuels in the world. In the four years after the Paris climate agreement was signed (2016-2019), they provided over $600 billion in financing to the fossil fuel sector, according to research from Rainforest Action Network. Even in 2020, after Parliament declared a climate emergency and hundreds of thousands took to Canada’s streets in the historic 2019 student strikes, the big banks were still heavily involved in financing the fossil fuel sector and climate breakdown.

Fossil fuel companies in Canada and around the world are trying to dig up more fossil fuels than can be burned if we are to keep warming below 1.5 ˚C and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. They’re pouring billions of dollars into new fossil fuel exploration and infrastructure (and lobbying and PR opposing climate action) that are fundamentally incompatible with stopping climate change and steals resources we need for the green transition.

Where do fossil fuel companies get the billions of dollars for their climate villainy? 

A very large chunk comes though the big banks. In fact it’s such a large chunk that if the banks pulled their support it’s unlikely the fossil fuel industry would be able to continue in their climate-wrecking ways.

Recognizing the growing public concern about the climate crisis, the big banks have started adopting some green (or ‘green’) policies. While some are somewhat helpful, they all fall far short of really taking the climate crisis seriously. In particular, despite all the green promises, they’re all still bankrolling the fossil fuel industry that’s driving the climate crisis.

The Canadian banking sector is dominated by the big five banks: TD, RBC, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC. If you live in Canada, odds are you have an account with at least one of these five banks. Which means they care about what you think, and it’s important to make your voice heard.

Please sign our petition calling on the big five banks to stop financing fossil fuels.

Many climate activists are encouraging people to leave the big five banks for a credit union, as they are less involved in fossil fuels and more likely to act in the interest of the community instead of profit. This is helpful and seriously ramps up the pressure on the big banks. If you bank with one of the big five you should seriously consider switching. However some credit unions are involved in financing fossil fuels—Desjardins for example was implicated in financing tar sands pipelines—and very few have been willing to actually adopt a no fossil fuels policy. To my knowledge the only one that has is Vancity (if you know of others, please reach out to let us know!).

Given their tremendous power and reach, it’s in everyone’s best interest for Canadian banks to do better. Please tell your bank you want them to commit to going fossil fuel free, and sign our petition today.

Saihanba Wind Farm in Inner Mongolia. © Simon Lim / Greenpeace
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