Banks Heating Things Up

The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) publishes a report annually, Banking on Climate Change, that assesses the efforts of banks to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG’s). Canadian banks do not do well. RAN looks at the efforts made to cut back on fossil fuel financing and rates the players. This is their recap of North American banks:

The recent federal election showed a substantial majority of Canadians supported a serious response to Climate Change. Is this not the kind of issue that credit unions could amplify?

The RAN report is thorough and highlights the relative size of Canadian banks in the North American economy. It also identifies the Big 5’s heavy investment in the Tar Sands, particularly RBC and TD.

At the heart of a credit union is the principle that one member’s savings are being loaned out to support a neighbour, coworker, or other community member. The contrast with the big banks is noteworthy. According to RAN, in 2017 the Big 5 financed Tar Sands development to a total of $24.8B. This exceeds the total assets of Canada’s largest credit union, Vancity.

Credit unions could be championing energy conservation, modelling the use of renewable energy sources, and financing small scale alternatives to the transnational oil conglomerates. To Vancity’s credit they do step up and produce an annual GHG Handbook and Inventory report. Vancity’s recent acquisition of CoPower Inc is also a plus. Credit unions can be leading in the campaign to adapt to, and mitigate, the Climate Emergency. This is both a marketing opportunity and a social responsibility.

From a very different perspective, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, expressed concerns about international banks’ exposures to this industry.  “Just like in any other major structural change, those banks overexposed to the sunset sectors will suffer accordingly,” he told The Guardian recently.

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