Royal Bank Found Guilty of Environmental Crimes

23 Apr 2008

At a mock trial preceding the Royal Bank of Scotland's AGM today, the bank was found guilty of environmental and climate crimes by students and given a suspended sentence to clean up its investments by 2009 or face a boycott.

Student protests outside RBS AGM

Treasury have allowed RBS to invest $10 billion of public money into fossil fuels

Students outside the RBS AGM protest against fossil fuel funding

Students try RBS for climate crimes

* Take Action: email RBS Chair Sir Tom McKillop to tell him to stop financing climate chaos!

People & Planet students put RBS on trial as part of a Ditch Dirty Development 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. Around 30 students from across the country gathered with props outside RBS’ flagship branch in St Andrew 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.

After hearing from the witnesses, the gathered jury overwhelmingly concluded that RBS is guilty of environmental crimes and gave the bank a suspended sentence to clean up its investments by 2009 or face a boycott.

“RBS is driving forward new and more destructive fossil fuels. The Tar Sands projects in Canada have destroyed an area larger than the whole of England. We’re here to tell RBS that they must cut their embedded emissions and stop financial support for fossil fuels”

Steve Halpin, Leeds University

After hearing from Mark Ballard, Rector of Edinburgh University, the protest then marched on RBS’ AGM at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre to deliver the verdict. Along the way the group stopped to deliver the verdict to branches of RBS and NatWest (part of the RBS Group). At the AGM, Andrew Cave, Head of Corporate Responsibility for RBS accepted the verdict on behalf of the RBS Board of Directors and Chairman Tom McKillop.

“The emissions from RBS’ investments in 2007 were greater than the whole of Scotland. As the elected Rector of Edinburgh university I find this deeply concerning and I will be be pressing for the University, a major investor in RBS, to raise this issue with the bank in future meetings”

Mark Ballard, Rector of Edinburgh University

The protest was 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. It was also part of an international day of action on financing climate change. Activists in the USA will today demonstrate at Bank of America’s AGM against their investments in fossil fuels.

  • Take Action: email RBS Chair Sir Tom McKillop to tell him to stop financing climate chaos!

To see more photos from this action see the People & Planet Flickr photostream.

Take action: Email RBS

Writing your own message will be more effective than using our text, so please do if you have the time.

This action is no longer active.

When the action was active, this was our suggested text.

RBS Stop Financing Climate Chaos

Dear Sir Tom McKillop,

Climate change is perhaps the single biggest threat facing humanity. As a major financial institution, RBS is a key actor in taking the steps needed to save the planet.

One of the key areas of emissions that needs to be cut is that from energy production, primarily oil and gas. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the positive impact of the $2 billion RBS have provided for renewable energy sources. However by continuing to finance fossil fuels, RBS is perpetuating a system that is driving us further and further towards a climate catastrophe. RBS is risking massive damage to its reputation and ignoring its climate responsibility.

In 2007 RBS arranged a loan of US$4.9 billion to the energy company E.ON which plans to build Kingsnorth coal plant in Kent. The effects of this project were described by James E. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute, as "a tipping point for the world".

Over successive years, RBS has financed OptiCanada's Long Lake project as part of the Athabsaca Tar Sands development to the tune of US$800 million. The Athabasca Tar Sands project has so far destroyed an area of ancient forest (a natural carbon storehouse) larger than England and currently pumps 27 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air every year.

As an expert in the field of energy financing, RBS could be leading the way in financing new sources of renewable, low-carbon and decentralised energy, thereby making a huge leap forward in the fight to avert climate chaos. That is why I call on RBS to take the following steps:

- calculate and publish the embedded emissions resulting from loans to oil and gas projects.

- cap embedded emissions and set annual targets for reductions.

- commit to an irreversible transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy lending.

- establish 'no-go' areas for lending: immediately halt loans to unconventional fossil fuels (e.g. tar sands) and which affect sensitive ecosystems such as rainforests.

If there is no commitment to take these steps by RBS' 2009 AGM then I will boycott all RBS Group companies, including NatWest, Churchill Insurance, Direct Line and Ulster Bank, and encourage my friends and peers to do likewise.

Please inform me of the steps you are taking to ensure that RBS lives up to its climate responsibility.