Despite a supposedly 'green' ethos_ Natwest slips up over parent

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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.

                                                                                                                                                                      t.d.halpin@warwick.ac.uk

                                                                                                                                                                    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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