WDM campaigned to clean up the bailed-out banks between 2009 and 2011.
Following the financial crisis of 2008, the UK government used a staggering £45.5 billion of UK taxpayers’ money – the GDP of Kenya and Tanzania combined – to prop up the Royal Bank of Scotland.
RBS used that public money to finance projects and companies that threaten the climate and human rights, such as tar sands extraction in Madagascar and Canada.
WDM campaigned to get the government to rein in the power of RBS and the other bailed-out banks and force them to keep to the highest environmental and human rights standards when investing our money.
In October 2009, along with People and Planet and PLATFORM, we launched a legal action against the Treasury for failing to properly assess the impact of using public money on human rights and climate change, as it should have according to the government's own rules.
Unfortunately at the oral hearing, permission to proceed with a full judicial review was denied as the judge agreed with the Treasury that government intervention would be harmful to the ‘financial stability’ and 'commercial interests' of the bank. The subsequent appeal was also denied.
All over the world, diverse groups from community activists to schoolchildren, small businesses to faith-based networks, are starting to take action on climate change. Big business is following suit, but often with tactics that bring their integrity into question. Climate change is being used to create a new kind of brand identity, without any of the fundamental changes needed to tackle the root causes of the problem itself – the use of fossil fuels.
This report, written by environmental campaigners Platform with the help of WDM, takes the case of the Royal Bank of Scotland, an international bank with interests across the fossil fuel sector that is promoting itself as a genuine actor in climate change efforts. Using Bloomberg data this report compares RBS’ environmental rhetoric with the bank’s financing of coal companies around the world in the last three years, and examines the efforts of civil society to date to pressure the bank to adopt more climate-friendly policies.
RBS was recapitalised by the UK taxpayer from 2008 onwards, following major losses due to their reckless financial practices. Now, in 2011, the British public faces massive spending cuts. The taxpayers’ money used to bail out the banks could have supported the welfare services now being decimated; the bailed out banks have a debt of obligation to invest in socially useful rather than socially harmful projects.
This report finds that in the years from 2008 to 2010 inclusive, RBS was involved in providing finance worth €791.8 million to companies listed in the world’s 20 biggest operators of coal mines, and in the same period was involved in providing finance worth €7,201.8 million to companies listed in the world’s 20 biggest generators of coal-based electricity. The combined total financing of coal that RBS has been involved in is almost €8 billion.
All international banks were ranked according to the amount of finance they had been involved in providing to the 20 biggest coal mining operators and the 20 biggest generators of coal-based electricity. For the 20 largest coal companies, RBS was ranked 8th out of 35, with HSBC ranking 10th, and Barclays 29th. For the 20 largest coal-based electricity generators, RBS was ranked 3rd, with Barclays coming 4th and HSBC 11th out of 69.