Green groups boycott Climate Week over RBS

Sarah Arnott
Monday 21 March 2011 01:00 GMT

More than 20 green groups are boycotting this week's Climate Week activities, blaming the "cynical" sponsorship by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which provides finance to the coal industry.

Taxpayer-owned RBS provided finance worth nearly $8bn (£4.9bn) to the world's biggest coal mining and coal-fired electricity generators over the past three years, more than any other UK bank, according to a report to be published this morning by campaign group Platform.

A string of campaign groups including the Centre for Alternative Technology, Artist Project Earth and Platform itself have withdrawn from Climate Week as a result, accusing the financial institution of "greenwash" when it is bankrolling production of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel.

Other groups are planning to focus on RBS's lending activities in the fossil fuel sector as part of their Climate Week activities. The central charge is one of hypocrisy. "For RBS to cynically appropriate the language around climate change action as a means of detracting attention and criticism from the promotion of climate-destructive industries and practices is totally reprehensible," Platform's Mel Evans, one of the report's authors, said. "You can't pretend to be part of the climate solution while you are involved in providing billions of dollars to the coal industry."

RBS, which declined to comment, is the biggest British bank when it comes to financing the coal industry. It also ranks eighth in the global league, behind Bank of America, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, PNC, China Everbright, Citi, Danatama Makmur and UBS, according to the Platform analysis.

Given the bank's links to fossil fuels, comedian Alistair McGowan has also decided to withdraw his endorsement of Climate Week. "Climate Week is celebrating the successes of ordinary citizens and businesses in bringing down their carbon emissions at the same time as its main sponsor, RBS, is doing more than any other bank to undermine those selfsame efforts," he said. "It's high time RBS put its money where its mouth is, and stopped bankrolling the fossil fuel industry."

The accusations are just the latest attack on RBS by green campaigners. Last year, it was accused of "cashing in on blood oil" for its links to energy-intensive Canadian tar sand oil production, which critics claim damages local habitats and boosts global climate change. A report last March claimed that RBS had underwritten more than $7.5bn-worth of tar sand-related loans – or 7 per cent of the global total – some $2.5bn of them since the bank was bailed out with public money in October 2008 (though the bank itself disputed the figures).

The bank's annual general meeting the following month was met with a string of 15 demonstrations across the country, including representatives from indigenous Canadian people affected by tar sands extraction in the meeting at the company's headquarters.

And last August, further protests centred on a Climate Camp erected on the back lawn of the bank's Gogarburn HQ in Edinburgh saw up to 800 people involved in protests across the city, with some targeting the Scottish oil company Cairn Energy, which started drilling in the Arctic last summer.

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