RBS Fossil Fuels Divestment – our reaction

April 18, 2016


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Today RBS announced that it has doubled its lending to renewable energy projects to £1 billion, whilst cutting fossil fuel financing by 70%, to £6.6 billion.

Whilst this new direction of travel is welcome, it should be greeted with a degree of scepticism from the bank formerly known as ‘the oil and gas bank’.

By their own admission RBS still lends six times more to fossil fuel companies than to renewables, and this doesn’t even include underwriting, which was worth another $4 billion in 2014 alone, nor does it include investments or other forms of financial services that RBS provides to these companies.

By contrast, RBS’ commitment to renewables announced today, whilst welcome, represents less than 0.3% of their loans to customers, and less than 0.1% of their total assets. [2] To call this a drop in the ocean would be a gross exaggeration.

Fossil fuel companies are wrecking indigenous communities and jeopardising a habitable climate for us all. Ending finance for undiversified coal companies is only a minor step towards ensuring a zero-carbon future, because most of the biggest coal producers are highly diversified.

For example, Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore, which collectively manage the devastating Cerrejón coal mine in Colombia, have received more than $3 billion in corporate loans from RBS since 2004, and none of them are affected by this change in policy. For as long as RBS profits off this destructive and antiquated industry, the bank remains an obstacle to a sustainable and equitable society, and continues to be a key driver of climate chaos.

82% of us agree that RBS should work in the public interest, whilst 3 in 5 people agree that the bank should serve local economies and regions throughout the UK. As a result, if RBS wants to be taken seriously as an environmental bank it must divest completely from fossil fuels, rather than simply greenwashing the convenient side-effects of cutting its losses and downsizing its global business.

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