Protests at shareholders meetings of Citi, Bank of America and RBS
US and UK banks find BankTrack campaigners protest against financing climate change
By Rainforest Action Network | New York, Edinburgh, Charlotte, Apr 23 2008
Campaigners of BankTrack member groups in the US and the UK gathered yesterday and today at the Annual Shareholder Meetings of Citi, Bank of America and RBS to challenge the banks on their role in financing projects and activities that exacerbate climate change. The protests are part of an ongoing world wide effort to push banks to take up their responsibility for combating climate change.
New York: Protests at Citi shareholders meeting Yesterday in New York activists with Rainforest Action Network (RAN) were joined by Appalachian residents at Citi’s Annual General Shareholder Meeting to protest the bank’s role as a leading financier of the coal industry and to support a landmark shareholder resolution on climate change.
The resolution—which was offered by Boston Common Asset Management, Catholic Healthcare West and Pleroma Inc.—requested that Citi cease all financial support for mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and the construction of new coal-fired power plants. This marks the first time a shareholder resolution addressing the climate change implications of a bank’s external financing will come to a vote.
“Banks are the top financiers of the world’s most carbon-intensive industries and could play a critical role in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Rebecca Tarbotton, director of RAN’s Global Finance Campaign. “Coal is a ticking time bomb for investors and the climate. Citi shareholders can either respond to the climate crisis with vision and leadership, or continue to lock in an outdated energy infrastructure for decades to come.”
Charlotte, North Carolina: activists challenge Bank of America on lending $3.2 billion for new coal plants This morning activists with Rainforest Action Network (RAN) were joined by Appalachian residents, including retired coal miners, and dozens of North Carolina citizens at Bank of America’s Annual General Shareholder Meeting to protest the bank’s role as a leading financier of mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining and new coal-fired power plants.
Despite reaping publicity for its climate change commitments, including its recent signing of the Carbon Principles, Bank of America was part of a lending syndicate that provided $3.2 billion in financing to Duke Energy. The loan will enable Duke to move forward with plans to build several controversial coal-fired power plants in North Carolina and Indiana.
Coal-fired power plants are responsible for nearly a third of the nation’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In 2006, emissions by power companies in Bank of America’s utility sector portfolio totaled 715 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equal to more than 10 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for that year.
"Unlike the credit crisis, we can’t bail out a dead planet,” said Rebecca Tarbotton, director of RAN’s Global Finance Campaign. “Bank of America’s reckless investments in new coal-fired power plants are locking in an outdated energy infrastructure that threatens our climate, our communities, and our economy.”
In addition, Bank of America has financial relationships with each of the top five producers of MTR coal. These companies are responsible for nearly half the total MTR coal production of the top 20 most active MTR coal companies. The EPA estimates that more than a million acres across Appalachia have already been lost to MTR, and that if the practice continues unabated, an additional 1.4 million acres of forest will be lost by the end of the decade. Mountaintop removal flattens mountain ranges and transforms healthy mountain woodlands into toxic sludge and rubble that has clogged more than 700 miles of rivers and streams. The large-scale destruction forces animal species from their habitat and uproots Appalachian communities.
Scotland: RBS put in trial for financing climate destruction Meanwhile today in Edinburgh, students together with PLATFORM put the Royal Bank of Scottland on a mock trial preceding the banks Annual General Meeting. The bank was found guilty of environmental and climate crimes and was given a suspended sentence to clean up its investments by 2009 or face a boycott.
RBS was put on trial as part of a protest against its lending to environmentally destructive fossil fuel projects, such as its loan to E.ON the company hoping to build the first new coal power station in the UK for over 30 years, at Kingsnorth in Kent. Over 50 students from across the country gathered with props outside RBS’ flagship branch in St Andrews Square for the mock trial. Grey whales, boreal forest, oil pipelines and coal plant cooling towers were witnesses testifying to RBS' complicity in driving forward climate chaos.
The protest is part of People & Planet's Ditch Dirty Development campaign which targets both private and public financial support for fossil fuel projects, aiming to increase spending on renewable and decentralised forms of energy.
Pressure on banks increases The protests at the shareholders meetings this week are part of an ongoing effort by BankTrack to ask banks to respond adequately to the unfolding climate crisis, by divesting from all fossil fuel extraction and coal power plants.
"The banks targeted in our actions are amongst the biggest financiers of fossil fuel extraction and CO2-intensive industries in the world. NGOs call upon the banks to take up their responsibility to the climate and change their lending from fossil fuel projects to renewable energy projects." says Mika Mino-Paluello from Platform.
“Smart banks see the writing on the wall; the era of fossil fuel is to come to an end; any euro invested in this sector is an investment in the past. What we need is banks that opt for investing in the future, that is, in a real shift towards financing renewable energy”, says BankTrack coordinator Johan Frijns. “This week’s protests help to bring that message forward.”
United Kingdom Mika Minio-Paluello, PLATFORM - 07766 175 641 Bronwen Thomas, People & Planet - 01865 245678