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Unravelling the Carbon Web is a project by PLATFORM. We work to reduce the environmental and social impacts of oil corporations, to help citizens gain a say in decisions that affect them, and to support the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.

The Oyal Bank of Scotland campaign

NGOs slam RBS for fossil fuel financing on the eve of delayed Corporate Responsibility Report launch

Delayed by a week, the Royal Bank of Scotland will now launch its 2007 Corporate Responsibility (CSR) Report on Friday 11 July. A coalition of environmental NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Scotland and People & Planet [1], pre-empted its publication by casting doubt on the bank’s green credentials in light of its ongoing role in financing fossil fuel expansion around the world. In 2007 RBS supported the fossil fuel industry with over $7 billion, while the bank’s embedded missions passed 50 million tonnes of CO2 – more than Scotland [2].

The groups expect that the report will focus on the bank’s lending of $1-3 billion to renewables projects in order to bolster its environmental credibility, while largely ignoring the impacts of the greater continued support of over $7 billion for - often heavily contested - fossil fuel projects [3]. The emissions embedded in the bank’s fossil fuel lending portfolio have continued to rise, passing 50 million tonnes of CO2 in 2007 – greater than Scotland's emissions, and more than 100 times the bank's internal emissions. [4]

The Bank has consistently claimed it should not be held responsible for the emissions resulting from fossil fuel projects, yet implicitly claims the credit for emissions reductions resulting from renewable energy. In last year's report RBS gave the false impression that the bank's support for renewable energy was as great as its support for  fossil fuels, by excluding much of the financing provided or arranged for firms involved in fossil fuels. [5] It remains impossible to identify the full extent and implications of the Bank's fossil fuel investments from any public documentation, not just the CSR report.

There are also serious concerns about the human rights impacts of some of RBS' investment portfolio. In November 2007 RBS indirectly financed Chinese state oil company Sinopec through its holding in Bank of China. Sinopec plays a key role in propping up the Burmese junta. Less than two months previously, during the brutal crackdown on the monks' protests, Sinopec began drilling an onshore well in a joint venture with the Burmese regime’s Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise. [6]

RBS has publicly recognised the need for there to be a transition to a low carbon economy, and is keen to portray itself as being a key player in this transition through sponsorship of events such as last week’s Low Carbon Economy Summit in London. Environmental campaigners say that if RBS is to be taken seriously as a ‘green’ bank, it must become fully transparent regarding the implications of the finance it provides and arranges, properly consider the risks arising from such investments, and
therefore cap and reduce its lending to coal, gas and oil projects and companies.

Duncan McLaren, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:

"We welcome the activity of RBS in financing renewable energy, but it cannot claim environmental credit for supporting clean energy capacity while simultaneously failing to disclose and denying responsibility for the enormous amount of carbon emissions resulting from its financial support for fossil fuels. It's time the Bank came clean about the details of its lending portfolio, so we can have an informed debate.”

James Lloyd, Head of Campaigns at People & Planet, said:

"In the last year and a half, RBS has made small steps in the right direction. For example, taking down its website, ending its climate change denial and capping its internal emissions. It now needs to put its money where its mouth is and stop pouring cash into a new wave of fossil fuel projects that will emit millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide for decades to come.”

Kevin Smith, Climate Change and Finance Campaigner at Platform, said:

"If Tom McKillop is serious about the need for a low carbon economy, the most practical move he could make would be to stop lending money to new oil pipelines and coal mines. Investing in renewables needs to happen instead of fossil fuel financing rather than alongside it.”

Karen Grant, from Scottish Education and Action for Development, said:

"Corporate Social Responsibility should involve careful consideration of an investment’s impacts on human rights as well as the environment. RBS’ involvement in activities in human rights hotspots such as Burma, West Papua and Sudan is undermining its commitment to being a good corporate


Media contacts:

Owen Davis at Friends of the Earth Scotland on 0131 243 2719 (office) 0131 243 2715 (redirects to mobile)
Kevin Smith at PLATFORM on 0207 700 7971
James Lloyd at People & Planet on 07811 370588


[1] The coalition of groups consists of Friends of the Earth Scotland, People & Planet, PLATFORM, BankTrack and Scottish Education and Action for Development

[2] Scotland's latest validated CO2 emissions (in 2005) were 43.7 million tonnes - AEA for Netcen, 2007. Greenhouse Gas Inventories for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:  1990 - 2005

[3] Actual 2007 figures are likely to be much higher, but a lack of transparency makes it difficult to track bank support to fossil fuels. Only financing over $100 million are listed here.

* $1.35 billion acquiring majority shares in Sempra Commodities.
* $1 billion to Royal Dutch Shell
* $700 million to Chesapeake Exploration Limited in USA
* $500 million to Valero Energy in USA
* $500 million to Mol in Hungary
* $400 million to Energy Transfer Partners in USA
* $400 million to Energy XXI in USA
* $300 million to Lundin in Sweden/international
* $275 million to Trafigura
* $250 million to Oklahoma G & E
* $240 million to Venture Production in UK
* $200 million to Rosneft in Russia
* $200 million to El Paso in US
* $200 million to Crimson Exploration in US
* $152 million to Revus Energy in Norway
* $147 million to Tangguh LNG in West Papua
* $110 million to OPTI Canada in Canada
* $120 million to Noble Group in Hong Kong
* $120 million to OGE Energy Corporation in USA

TOTAL: $7.164 billion


[5] The 2006 CSR report made much of the $2.6 billion RBS provided to renewables project finance in 2006, while playing down the $2.9 billion provided to oil & gas project finance. Yet project finance is only a small section of the total support provided to the fossil fuel industry. In one 2006 general corporate loan to ConocoPhillips alone, RBS acted as administrative agent on $22.5 billion of credit facilities.

[6] Through its 8.5% stake in Bank of China, RBS was involved in underwriting $2.7 billion of bonds for Chinese state oil company Sinopec.