RBC claims to be committed to climate action, yet Canada’s largest bank (and the fifth largest financier of fossil fuels in the world) is allocating a mere 1% of its energy finance to renewable energy. 

Protest outside RBC over bank’s finance of fossil fuels, March 24, 2021. Photo credit Stephanie Lake

RBC is not the only climate arsonist. Since 2016, the world’s 60 largest commercial banks provided $2.5 trillion (US dollars) in loans and bond underwriting to energy activities. Of that, $2.3 trillion (92%) was related to the production of fossil fuel energy and just $178 billion (7%) was related to clean energy activities such as wind and solar. 

This needs to change. 

What should the banks fund instead of more fossil fuels? 

Rather than pouring billions into false solutions like carbon capture or fossil-derived hydrogen that extend the life of the destructive fossil-based energy system, banks should be investing in the energy system we need to live sustainably and respect, uphold and affirm Indigenous rights. While the details vary between scenarios, the electrification of transport and heating is at the core of any credible low-carbon future. 

“As electricity generation becomes progressively cleaner, electrification of areas previously dominated by fossil fuels emerges as a crucial economy-wide tool for reducing emissions.” – International Energy Agency, Net Zero by 2050.

Some of the things that banks should be supporting with the money they now give to fossil fuels:

  • Massive investments in energy efficiency, so we can get more out of the energy we use. Efficiency Canada has some great ideas on how to do this. 
  • Wind and solar power (now the cheapest form of generation) alongside batteries and smarter controls to green the grid. Indigenous Clean Energy is showing us how we can build community-based renewable energy projects that support true reconciliation.  
  • Heat pumps to heat and cool our homes, offices and factories. Your bank should be helping you finance one for your own home (the federal government is already helping with rebates that make it easier to go green and save on your energy bills). 
  • Electrified transportation systems that don’t just replace existing gas-powered cars with electric ones, but also provide more and better (electrified) public transit in cities redesigned to be easier and safer to get to where you need to be by walking or on your electric bike. Check out Greenpeace’s Greener Transport page for ideas. 
  • Electric arc furnaces to make greener steel, and new processes to produce chemicals or reusable alternatives to plastics, without fossil fuels. 
  • Protecting and restoring nature. We need to improve the biodiversity and ecological integrity of our forests so they can become carbon sinks again, but not simply as “offsets” that enable the ongoing use of fossil fuels. 

We have the climate solutions we need – we just need to put people to work building them and that will require big investments.

Right now the banks – by continuing to put 99% of their energy finance into fossil fuels – are a part of the problem. If they won’t do it on their own, then we should demand that our elected officials make them be part of the solution.

Call out the world’s #1 Oil Bank

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