Rainforest Action Network study ranks financed emissions of Canadian banks
Website lets customers compare carbon footprint of personal accounts
By Rainforest Action Network | San fransisco, Nov 19 2008
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) released a new report and website today ranking the carbon footprints of Canada’s top banks: RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC, BMO, Vancity and Desjardins. Financing Global Warming: Canadian Banks and Fossil Fuels is the first report to analyze and quantify the greenhouse gas emissions of Canadian banks based on their financing of the fossil fuel sector. The report also makes recommendations for what banks, bank customers, regulators and civil society can do to help reduce the climate impacts of banking.
The report finds that 99 percent of each bank’s overall climate footprint comes from the fossil fuel production it finances. The “financed emissions” from Canada’s five largest banks totaled 625 million tonnes of CO2 in 2007, exceeding the total CO2 emissions in 2006 from all energy use across the country – including all power plants, industry and manufacturing, transportation, homes and offices – which totaled 583 million tonnes . 
“When banks fund dirty energy projects like tar sands expansion or new coal-fired power plants, it locks in a polluting infrastructure that will cast a long carbon shadow over the country for decades to come,” said RAN’s Bill Barclay, lead author of Financing Global Warming. “Banks have a critical role to play in the move to a clean energy economy, and they can start by setting meaningful carbon reduction targets for their lending and investments.”
Of the top five banks, RBC has the largest absolute carbon footprint, having financed 198 million tonnes of fossil fuel-related CO2 emissions last year, and Scotiabank has the highest carbon intensity. In total, Canada’s five top banks provided more than $155 billion in national and international corporate financing for fossil fuel extraction in 2007, including substantial investments in the world’s largest and dirtiest fossil fuel development project: the expansion of Alberta’s tar sands. On average, fossil fuel extraction received 14 times more financing from Canada’s top banks in 2007 than clean energy projects.
By contrast, Desjardins and VanCity, two major banks based on the credit union model, have very low carbon footprints.
Based on the report’s results, RAN developed a free online Canadian bank carbon calculator that enables citizens to see the footprint of their personal deposit account and compare it to their potential footprint with other banking options. The calculator is available at www.climatefriendlybanking.com.
“Every dollar sunk into Tar Sands expansion is a dollar better invested in clean power and energy efficiency,” said Dr. Tony Clarke, founder and president of the Polaris Institute. “Canadians can play a critical role in stopping the Tar Sands development by pressuring their banks to shift their financing from fossil fuels to clean energy.”
Polls have shown that Canadians are seriously concerned about the climate and their personal ability to reduce energy use. RAN’s report shows that switching funds to a low-carbon bank is one of the easiest ways to significantly lessen one’s personal climate footprint. A $10,000 deposit account held in any of the top five high-carbon banks has a carbon footprint ranging from 970 to 1,430 kg larger than a deposit account held in Vancity, Canada’s lowest-carbon bank.
With more than $3.6 trillion in assets, the financing decisions of Canada’s top banks greatly impact Canada’s $1.3 trillion economy and the trajectory of the country’s future greenhouse gas emissions. In order to mitigate climate change, the report recommends that banks immediately adopt lending policies that address the impacts of climate change across all business lines. ###
Rainforest Action Network campaigns to reduce our reliance on oil and coal, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action.