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: The 'Oil Bank 08 COMMENT of Scotland' Despite a supposedly 'green' ethos, Natwest slips up over parent company RBS's oily reputation embedded emissions (taking into account their dling oil supplies is that of the Canadian tar sands. part in fossil fuel projects) overtook the emissions • BP, Exxon and Shell financed by RBS: The pros of these are that they are huge and Timothy Halpin for the whole of Scotland, at over 40,000,000 between 2001 and 2006 provided over not owned by Saudi Arabia, but the cons are far I tonnes of CO2. $10 billion in oil and gas loans weightier. It takes about 29kg of CO2 to produce t’s easy to see why a student may choose a If you go onto the RBS website, there is a a conventional barrel of oil, but this rises to 125kg NatWest account; great free overdraft, five whole section on Corporate Responsibility which for tar sands oil, because it is a hugely energy in- year railcard, and this year they’re even includes a page on ‘The Environment’. Here you • RBS emissions surpass Scotland: tensive process to get crude oil out of the heavy throwing in a webcam so us hip youngsters can learn how all RBS branches are supplied with 40,000,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2006 mixture of bitumen, water, sand and clay found can “web log” on “Youtube” and be as cool as Dav- one hundred percent green electricity, donate beneath more than 54,000 square miles of boreal id Cameron. There’s even a “Go Green” section their old office furniture to ‘Recycle Scotland’, • 2005: loans worth $136 million helped forest in northern Alberta an area the size of Eng- on their website, so we can “See how we can help and have even made the switch to recycled office fund two renewable projects land and Wales combined, which also happens to you to protect the environment”, and with advice paper. Whilst these are undoubtedly bold steps be one of the world’s largest natural carbon sinks. such as “don’t order a cheque-book unless you re- in the right direction, it does seem to be missing The price of a barrel of oil has made it economi- ally need one”, it’s hard to see what chance global the elephant in the room when it comes to envi- • It takes 29kg of CO2 to produce a bar- cally viable to engage in open cast mining to ex- warming has got against this corporate sponsored ronmental impact, and this becomes even more rel of oil; 125kg for tar sands oil ploit this resource, forever destroying one of the Green counter-attack. obvious when you notice that the website is still last remaining wildernesses on the planet, but However, as usual, all is not quite as it seems. advertising its ‘Plans for 2007’. • Canadian tar sands oil underneath surely the price of a barrel of oil also means it is NatWest is the student-friendly arm of The Royal I am perhaps being overly critical. RBS is in madness to continue down the road of depend- Bank of Scotland, who brand themselves as “The fact a big lender to renewable energy projects, 54,000 square miles of boreal forests ence on decreasing oil reserves. RBS are part-fi- Oil and Gas Bank” because they specialise in ar- and in 2005 (the most recent figures I can find) nancing BP’s venture into Canada, and it is by the ranging loans for oil and gas extraction and ex- arranged $136 million of loans to two renewable make. Therefore, we are looking at solutions to destruction of this wilderness that NatWest pays ploration projects. RBS has made itself integral projects. However this is dwarfed by their invest- climate change through our investments and for our railcards and webcams. to every stage of oil and gas exploration, produc- ment in non-renewable energy, and their efforts funding”. Whilst this is not to say that other As the Stern Review so eloquently puts it, tion and development, from financing oil and gas for future deals are still aimed towards oil. As we banks are beyond criticism when it comes to “the investment that takes place in the next ten companies to explore new regions, to arranging are fast approaching (or even passing) Peak Oil, policies, RBS is lagging far behind, to twenty years could lock in very high green- loans for pipelines. Whilst BP, Exxon and Shell we have a choice: either we can further invest in and may even still be going in house gas emissions for the next half-century, are the visible logos of fossil fuel production, they increasingly dirty and unyielding oil beds, not the wrong direction. or help move the world onto a more sustainable are financed by RBS, who between 2001 and 2006 only sentencing the planet to climate chaos, but The most recently publi- path”. Although Stern was referring the corporate provided over $10 billion in oil and gas loans and also locking ourselves into further years of de- cised example of the new, investment, the principle applies to personal in- acted as financial adviser on over $30 billion of pendence on oil (where more oil means more cor- unconventional fos- vestments too, and by banking with NatWest projects. In 2006 The Royal Bank of Scotland’s ruption and more wars), or we can use that money sil fuel source to we are investing in what has been dubbed ‘The to invest in alternative energy, which is a growth replace our Oil Bank of Scotland’. Last year our Student’s sector in need of capital. Annual growth rates are dwin- Union joined the National Union of Students around 25% for wind and 30% for solar energy. in calling on RBS to conduct and publish a full In recognition of this, other banks have begun to calculation of their embedded carbon emis- make the change. For a long time now The Co- sions, and informing them that we shall con- operative Bank has had no exposure to oil, sider “other, more ethical banking options”, gas or coal (or indeed a whole host of should RBS not substantially cut their com- other ethically-challenged invest- mitment to investing in fossil fuel extraction ments), and HSBC recognises programmes. At least by following this lead that its “most significant we might be able to show NatWest that there impact [on climate change] are things students care more about than free is the investment and lend- webcams, and that we’re not stupid enough to ing decisions we believe that by giving us the option of opting out of paper statements they’re somehow go- ing green. firstname.lastname@example.org People and Planet will be campaigning to raise awareness at the start of term outside the banks in Union South as part of their ‘Ditch Dirty Development’ campaign.
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