Banks, fossil fuel, and climate change

Poll: 7 in 10 Canadians believe banks committed to net-zero emissions should not finance fossil fuel expansion & support federal requirements for banks to act on climate. © Photo by Loïc Manegarium from Pexels.
13/12/2021

TORONTO — A new survey commissioned by Greenpeace Canada found that seven in ten (69%) of respondents believe banks that have committed to a net zero target should be expected to avoid funding and lending to projects that expand the size of the fossil fuel industry. Seventy per cent also agree that the federal government should require banks to bring their fossil fuel financing activities in line with efforts to address climate change. 

Previous Greenpeace investigations have found that Canadian banks are playing a growing role financing climate destruction, and are more exposed to climate risk than they are telling investors. Prior to the pandemic, the big five Canadian banks steadily increased their fossil fuel loans and investments since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed — providing almost $700 billion in loans and underwriting services to fossil fuel companies while owning $125 billion worth of shares in the sector.

This poll comes on the heels of the 2021 federal election, during which the Liberal Party promised, if re-elected, would “require climate-related financial disclosures and the development of net-zero plans for federally regulated institutions, which includes financial institutions, pension funds, and government agencies.” The Liberals were indeed re-elected and an overwhelming majority of Canadians support this pledge. It’s time they follow through.

Senior energy strategist Keith Stewart said:

“Canada’s big five banks are all in the top 25 of fossil fuel funders globally. The overwhelming majority of Canadians want banks to be part of the climate solution, and support federal regulation to ensure that they follow through.”

Key findings of the survey:

  • 79% support Canadian banks achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emission by 2050 in order to limit the impacts of climate change, and 69% agree that banks that have committed to this target should be expected to avoid funding and lending to projects that expand the size of the fossil fuel industry.
  • 70% per cent agree the government should require banks to bring their fossil fuel financing activities in line with efforts to address climate change, including reducing their  financial support for fossil fuels. 
  • 24% of Canadians say banks should immediately end their funding of fossil fuels, while 50% say banks should either end (31%) or halve (19%) their fossil fuel funding by 2030.
  • Three-quarters of Canadians feel Canadian banks should have to disclose any fossil fuel companies they are financing. 

These are the findings of a survey conducted by Greenpeace Canada from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4, 2021 with a representative sample of 1,515 online Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey was conducted in English and French. 

The precise questions and results can be found here.

About the Angus Reid Forum:

The Angus Reid Forum is Canada’s most well-known and trusted online public opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.

ENDS

For more information, contact: 

Brandon Wei, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Canada

brandon.wei@greenpeace.org, +1 (778) 772-6138

Keith Stewart, Senior Energy Strategist, Greenpeace Canada

kstewart@greenpeace.org, +1 (416) 659-0294 

Banks, fossil fuel, and climate change Photo by Loïc Manegarium from Pexels - INSPADES NEWS

(TORONTO) – Greenpeace Canada activists blocked entrances to the RBC’s corporate headquarters today by suspending climbers from fifteen foot high tripods as part of a call for Canada’s big five banks to stop funding fossil fuels and to respect Indigenous rights [1]. The protestors said that despite their claims, Canada’s big banks are still amongst the largest funders of fossil fuels in the world and are thus fueling the climate crisis, destroying biodiversity and violating Indigenous rights.

“I’m a middle-aged dad with a mild fear of heights who has been politely asking Canadian banks to stop funding fossil fuels for decades,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada and one of the climbers. “I’m dangling from a tripod today because the banks’ response has been to continue providing over a hundred billion dollars a year to fossil fuel companies. That money pipeline is fueling the climate crisis, and after what has happened in BC this year we are not going to let bank CEOs ignore the deadly consequences of their actions,” added Stewart. 

Prime Minister Trudeau opened his speech at the Glasgow climate summit by making the link between climate change and the tragedy of the town of Lytton, whose infrastructure was destroyed by climate-fueled wildfires this summer and whose former residents are now dealing with the consequences of the devastating floods that hit southern British Columbia last month. The activists called on bank CEOs to come down from their towers and accept charred wood fragments from Lytton homes, with the hope that the fragments would remain on the bankers’ desks to remind them of the life-and-death consequences of all of their investment decisions. 

“We are in the heart of Canada’s banking district today to interrupt bankers’ business-as-usual because it is destabilizing the climate, destroying biodiversity and violating Indigenous rights,” said Juan Ortiz, spokesperson & activist at Greenpeace Canada who joined other Greenpeace supporters handing out flyers at the site of the protest. They also urged passers-by to view the video testimonials [2] from Lytton, Shackan and Kamloops community members on the Greenpeace Canada website. “We call on CEOs like RBC’s Dave McKay to meet face-to-face with communities devastated by climate change and fossil fuel projects, listen to their lived experience and take corrective actions,” added Ortiz.

All of Canada’ big five banks are in the top 25 of global funders of fossil fuels, and Canada’s banks have provided $825 billion to fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate agreement was signed. This is 13 times more than the federal government has spent on its climate plan over the same period [3].

Ortiz, Stewart and the other activists pointed to RBC’s financing of the Coastal GasLink pipeline as an example of a project whose funding should be stopped immediately due to the violation of Indigenous rights and failure to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. According to research commissioned by Greenpeace Canada, RBC Capital Markets is currently providing CAD 390.7 million in loans directly to the Coastal GasLink project and an additional CAD 400.6 million to the project’s parent company TC Energy. TC Energy rents office space in the Royal Bank tower whose entrances were blocked today. Collectively, Canada’s big 5 banks are providing $1.95 billion in project financing to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

More broadly, Greenpeace is calling on Canadian banks to immediately end all financing of new fossil fuel projects [4], present a plan to cut financed emissions in half by 2030 and to ensure the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities to any projects that they fund. 

Note to editors:

[1] Images and footage of the action in Toronto can be found on the Greenpeace media library

[2] Testimonies from LyttonShackan and Kamloops community members available. Greenpeace consulted residents and received consent to interview, film and amplify the materials and stories in the context of this campaign. To speak with a local community member please contact Marie-Christine Fiset.

[3] For more data on fossil fuel financing in Canada, see Greenpeace Canada’s latest report on Canadian banks.

[4] More than 9403 Greenpeace supporters have written to the bank CEOs, telling them to stop funding fossil fuels and respect Indigenous rights: Daryl White, CEO of BMO; Victor Dodig, CEO of CIBC; Dave McKay, CEO of RBC, Brian Porter, CEO of Scotiabank; Bharat Masrani, CEO of TD.

For more information, please contact:

On site

Dina Ni, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Canada 
dina.ni@greenpeace.org; +1 416 820-2148

From the office & to request interviews with affected communities 

Marie-Christine Fiset, Head of Media, Greenpeace Canada
marie-christine.fiset@greenpeace.org; +1 514 972-6316

About the author

Marie-Christine Fiset
Marie-Christine is the Head of Media with Greenpeace Canada. Based in the Montreal office, she racks her brain every day to publicize Greenpeace’s campaigns, but above all to make as many people as possible aware of the importance of protecting our environment. Passionate about words, books, snack time, chai tea and yoga, she also aspires one day to play a musical instrument … any really! Feel free to follow her on Twitter @MarieCFiset

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