Taxpayers' money involved in financing controversial tar sands companies

1 March 2010

New report exposes Royal Bank of Scotland's involvement in Canada’s 'blood oil'

London, Brussels, March 1 - A new report launched today reveals that UK bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, has been involved in providing loans worth $7.5 billion in the last three years to companies carrying out highly controversial 'tar sands' mining [1] in Canada.

A coalition of non-government organisations including PLATFORM and Friends of the Earth Europe, [2] have released, 'Cashing in on Tar Sands – RBS, UK Banks and Canada's 'Blood Oil', [3] which shows that outside of North America, RBS is involved in the highest quantity of loans to tar sands-related companies, equivalent to eight per cent of the global total.

The exploitation of tar sands has been the subject of international criticism for its negative impact on climate change, Canadian ecosystems and the Indigenous communities that live in the region. On the 1st of February, executives of European and North American banks, including RBS, met in Toronto to discuss concerns over a public backlash over the banking sector's involvement in the increasingly controversial projects. [4]

The report is being released on Monday, the day three of the groups are in court challenging the UK Treasury over RBS' use of public money to provide finance for companies that exacerbate climate change and disregard human rights, including tar sands, coal, oil and gas and other forms of mining, for examples Vedanta's bauxite mines in India.

Mel Evans from PLATFORM, one of the authors of the report said: "RBS has been involved in providing more money in loans to destructive tar sands companies than any other UK bank. When RBS executives get their bonuses, they are being rewarded for enabling oil companies to devastate traditional ways of life for Indigenous communities in Canada, while making the problems of climate change much, much worse."

Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: "Given the disastrous impacts of tar sands on our climate, environment and communities, European Union politicians should do their utmost to stop oil from tar sands entering Europe and to prevent the development of tar sand at all. Existing EU policy initiatives, such as the Fuel Quality Directive, must be fully utilised in the fight against tar sands. Banning tar sands oil from the EU market will contribute to Europe's efforts to combat climate change."

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NOTES:

[1] Tar sands are a type of oil that is mixed up with a particulate matter that needs to separated. The process of obtaining the oil is around three times more carbon intensive than obtaining conventional oil. In addition the process creates enormous lakes of toxic byproducts that are leaking into water sources, and are being blamed by local communities for the abnormal rates of rare cancers they are experiencing.

[2] The full list of groups publishing the report is PLATFORM, the World Development Movement, People & Planet, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Friends of the Earth - Scotland, Friends of the Earth – England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Friends of the Earth – Europe, the New Internationalist, Indigenous Peoples Links, BankTrack and the Rainforest Action Network

[3] The report 'Cashing in on Tar Sands – RBS, UK Banks and Canada's 'Blood Oil' can be downloaded here.

[4] The meeting was hosted by the Royal Bank of Canada and was held at the RBC Plaza in Toronto Canada and attended by 41 banking executives from around the world, including Baba Abu, the RBS Head, Sustainable Business, Global Banking. The day included presentations by Jim Ellis, the Albertan Deputy Minister for the Environment, and Peter Watson, the Deputy Minister for Energy, and a presentation on 'Public Opinion on Canada's Oil Sands' by Bruse Anderson of National Public Relations.

Investments were scrutinized of 26 banks from across the world, including Barclays, RBS and HSBC. The report looks at looks at the finance that RBS, Barclays and HSBC have made to companies that (a) have an ownership stake in existing tar sands projects and projects under development; or (b) own, operate or are developing pipelines primarily being used to transport tar sands oil over a three year period from January 2007 through to December 2009 and has been collated using a Bloomberg terminal.